State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.
The shocking video that has been seen around the world opens with three giggling teenage girls in a car. As the driver texts a message, the car veers into the adjacent lane. A violent crash occurs, seriously injuring the girls and passengers in another car.
Produced for the Gwent Police Department in South Wales, the bloody, graphic video is shown to high school students to demonstrate the horrific consequences of texting while driving. Clips have turned up on You Tube, and the Police Chief in Gwent has received letters from around the world from people claiming they will never text and drive again.
Using nationwide traffic data from the fatality Accident reporting System and texting records from the Federal Communications commission and CTIA, the wireless telecom industry group, researchers at the University of North Texas were able to calculate the death toll from texting while driving. Between 2002 and 2007, 16,141 deaths were caused by texting behind the wheel.
The study also found that the percentage of all traffic deaths caused by distracted driving increased from 11 percent during 1999 to 16 percent during 2008, only one-third of Americans owned a cell phone during 1999 but 91 percent had cell phones by 2008, and the average monthly volume of text messages increased from one million during 2002 to 110 million by 2008.
The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) has completed definitive work about the issue of distracted driving. A July 2009 press release states, “In VTTI’s studies that included light vehicle drivers and truck drivers, manual manipulation of phones such as dialing and texting of the cell phone lead to a substantial increase in the risk of being involved in a safety-critical event (e.g., crash or near crash). However, talking or listening increased risk much less for light vehicles and not at all for trucks. Text messaging on a cell phone was associated with the highest risk of all cell phone related tasks.” VTTI found that the risk of a crash or near crash is 2.8 times as high as non-distracted driving.
Nationwide Mutual Insurance conducted a survey during 2008 of 1,500 drivers and found that 81 percent had used cell phones while behind the wheel even though 40 percent or more had been hit or nearly hit by another driver using a cell phone.
December 1, 2010, a Wisconsin law banning texting while driving goes into effect. No person may drive any motor vehicle while composing or sending an electronic text message or an electronic mail.
The ban will not apply to the operator of an authorized emergency vehicle; the use of any device whose primary function is transmitting and receiving emergency alert messages and messages related to the operation of the vehicle or an accessory that is integrated into the electrical system of a vehicle, including a global positioning system device; an amateur radio operator that holds a valid amateur radio operator’s license issued by the Federal Communications Commission; and the use of a voice operated or hands free device if the driver does not use his or her hands to operate the device, except to activate or deactivate a feature or function of the device.
Violators could berequired to forfeit between $20 and $400, the same forfeitures for violating the state’s inattentive driving law.