Legislators approved a bill this month imposing $20 to $40 fines for drivers talking on handheld cellphones in construction zones, moving one more step toward banning all cell phone use while driving.
The reality is that a $20 to $40 fine likely is not going to influence drivers too much, but it is right for legislators to try to stress the importance of driving carefully in construction zones.
In construction zones, drivers are supposed to slow down because workers are often working close to the road and it’s only a matter of inches separating life and death. It should be common sense to get off the phone in these areas.
With the passing of this law, some say Wisconsin should go all the way and ban use of all handheld cell phones while driving and limit phone use to hands-free devices. Already, 14 other states require that drivers talk on hands-free phones, including Illinois.
But for now in Wisconsin, at least, we should limit the law changes to just construction areas.
Already there are laws on the books fining people for distracted driving and texting while driving.
Those laws can be utilized and should be. That means if you see someone swerving and cutting people off while talking on the phone, you know that that person already is breaking the law.
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every day in the U.S., crashes involving distracted drivers kill about eight people and injure more than 1,100.
But cell phone use while driving is not the only distraction. Eating while driving, applying makeup, writing notes, setting the GPS and handing things to children in the backseat are all distractions.
Should the law be changed to specifically ban all of those things? No. People should use common sense and be safe. And when they are not, police can use existing laws to ticket these drivers.
Also one of the issues with requiring everyone to get hands-free devices is that not everyone can afford Bluetooth.
A ban on handheld phones is essentially a regressive tax, hurting the poor.
In the future, as technology continues to advance, Bluetooth and wireless technology in cars will become as standard as backup cameras, airbags and seatbelts.
But for now, until that technology becomes standard, people should be able to use their cell phone safely when they feel it’s necessary.