State Rep. Peter Barca
Press Release

Rep. Barca, Sen. Lehman propose hands-free cell phone driving requirement

Proposal would help limit unsafe driving behavior, save lives

By - Jan 30th, 2014 02:50 pm

MADISON – In order to decrease the number of distracted-driving casualties and injuries on Wisconsin roads and highways, Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and Sen. John Lehman (D-Racine) today announced a new bill to require a hands-free device when using a cell phone while driving. Earlier this month, Illinois became the 12th state to prohibit hand-held cell phone use while driving.

During the 2009-11 legislative session, Rep. Barca authored legislation that made Wisconsin the 25th state to ban texting while driving. Now 41 states prohibit that practice.

“It is important for Wisconsin to take the strong step toward ending this unsafe behavior on our roads,” Rep. Barca said. “This is a common-sense public safety proposal that would help keep Wisconsin’s drivers and pedestrians safe. We must use technology, such as hands-free options, whenever possible to enhance safety.”

This proposal provides exemptions for emergency vehicle operators, the use of GPS systems or two-way radios, touching the phone to receive or place a call, and reporting an emergency situation.  The effective date is delayed one year to allow drivers time to consider purchasing hands-free capable devices.

The Harvard Center for Risk Analysis reported that cell phone use contributes to an estimated six percent of all crashes in the U.S., equaling 636,000 crashes, 330,000 injuries, 12,000 serious injuries, and 2,600 deaths annually. The Wisconsin State Patrol notes that inattentive driving was a factor in 18 percent of crashes and 14 percent of fatal crashes in 2009.

The analysis and bill draft of LRB 3084 are attached here.

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