Wisconsin lawmakers drafting bill that would make holding your phone while driving illegal

NOW: Wisconsin lawmakers drafting bill that would make holding your phone while driving illegal

(MILWAUKEE, Wis.)-- Texting and driving is illegal in Wisconsin, but lawmakers are working on a bill that would force drivers to put down their phones while driving once and for all. The hands-free law would allow drivers to still answer calls as long as the phone is on speaker or connected through the car. As of now, that law only applies to work zones.

Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) represents one of the most dangerous intersections in Milwaukee, located on 35th and Capitol. He says the hands-free law would only help to reduce the amount of distracted driving he sees in his district.

Milwaukee drivers say the hands-free law should apply to all roads, they say phone use is constant.

"I absolutely see it all the time,” said driver, Tymeka Curtis. “Someone almost ran into me the other day while they were on their phone, so I'm with that law being passed"

Thomas Goetz with the National Safety Council is working with Rep. John Spiros (R-Marshfield) who is drafting the bill.

Goeltz is all too familiar with distracted drivers. His daughter Megan and her unborn son were killed by one in 2016 while she was sitting in her car at a stop sign. Goeltz has made it his mission to create tougher laws against phone use in the car.

"Maybe I can make an impact with the greater population on this topic now that it's so personal to me," said Goeltz.

Goeltz says more than a dozen states have adopted the statewide hands-free law, and within two years, 80 percent of those states experienced a drop in driving deaths.

"They've seen a 16 to 20-percent drop in fatalities and serious crashes associated with distracted driving," adds Goeltz. 

Democratic representatives say distracted driving is a bi-partisan issue, and are seeing both sides starting to find common ground.

"It's something that we definitely need to pursue,” said Rep. David Bowen, (D-Milwaukee). “But we just need to agree on how to pursue it, so I think we're almost there, and the safety of our community is most important."

Rep. Bowen says a similar bill by Rep. Spiros was introduced last year, but it needed more insight.

"I think one of the most important things that we could do is not just to have a penalty first approach, but a holistic approach that involves educating the public," adds Rep. David Bowen, (D-Milwaukee).

Rep. Bowen says he hopes to see this bill on his desk soon, because there's only a small window of opportunity to get this in during the upcoming legislative sessions in October and November.

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