Bill on Cell Phone Use While Driving Heard In Assembly

It’s “Back to School” season  and with children traveling to and from school all of us to make sure to pay attention and follow the rules of the road while driving.  That includes not texting or dialing cell phones while driving.

That said, not every legislative bill the WASB follows is directly related to K-12 education.  Some bills affect public safety and the safety of children and adults.  One such bill is Assembly Bill 463, which would broaden existing state law prohibitions on cell phone use while driving.  The bill caught our attention in part  because of the focus this time of year on slowing down and protecting young children.

The bill would prohibit the use of electronic devices while driving and broadens existing state law prohibiting texting and emailing while driving to include entering, transmitting, or accessing data via an “interactive electronic device.”  Under the bill, these infractions would be categorized as “inattentive driving.” Exceptions under the bill include using a device to report an emergency, or for verbal communication or navigation.  Electronics that are integrated into the vehicle would also be exempt.

The Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety held a public hearing on  AB 463 last week (Sept. 21.)

At the hearing, the Assembly author of the bill,  Rep. Ron Tusler (R-Harrison)  testified that the expansion of distracted driving prohibitions and increased penalties under the bill would discourage the dangerous practice of cell phone use while driving and clarify that texting is considered negligent driving.  (Parents may want to mention this to their teenage and young adult children.)  Tusler noted that the exceptions provide some flexibility and suggested the possibility that another exception for the use of electronic devices for medical needs might be added to the bill.

Others testifying in favor of the bill were Rep. Shannon Zimmerman (R-River Falls), the Wisconsin Association for Justice, the Milwaukee Police Association, the Wisconsin State Fire Chiefs Association, and the Wisconsin Bicycle Federation.  Registered in favor of the bill but no0t testifying were the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association and the Wisconsin EMS Association.

An identical  Senate companion bill, Senate Bill 380, has also been introduced, with  Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) as its main author.