Staff editorial: Texting interferes with safe driving

Story by The Spectator staff

The Wisconsin State Assembly’s passage of a ban on text messaging while driving is a good step toward safer driving. Texting while driving should be discouraged, and this bill is a step in the right direction to prevent it.

According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, the Assembly passed the measure in an 89-6 vote, with some legislators hoping for more of a broad ban on cell phone use while driving. A broader ban on cell phone use while driving didn’t receive enough support to be included in the measure, though.

In October, the State Senate passed a similar texting ban, but the Assembly’s version allows drivers to text while the car is not in motion. Ultimately, the two versions of the bill will need to be reconciled before being sent to Governor Jim Doyle’s desk. The ban would take effect seven months after Doyle’s signature, the article reports.

Text messaging while driving is different than talking on the phone while driving, and the Assembly’s decision not to ban all cell phone use is appropriate.

In terms of distraction, talking on a cell phone is similar to talking with in-car passengers, and other in-car devices like GPS systems and stereos are similarly distracting to drivers, yet there is not the same legal ban on those devices.

There was some debate among legislators about the appropriate fine attached to the violation.

Since a warrant is required to seize and search a cell phone, this measure will be difficult to enforce, similarly to seat-belt laws. A worry is that it will end up being the police officer’s word against the driver’s, which could create an unfair advantage.

Dialing on a cell phone could be interpreted as texting, which is another possible complication of the ban. Talking on a cell phone, especially during a long, tedious car ride, can be practiced safely

If nothing else, this measure will send a message to young drivers that distracted driving won’t be tolerated.

Ultimately, texting while driving is a serious distraction and a danger to other drivers, so this is a smart and reasonable decision to create safer roads across Wisconsin.