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Conservatively Speaking

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.

Disabling Driver Distractions

Legislation


If you’re driving while reading this, please stop and pay close attention to the road.

The 2009 Traffic Safety Culture Survey sponsored by the AAA Foundation found that 40 percent of drivers younger than 35 and about one out of five drivers of all ages said they were texting while driving during the previous month.

Beginning December 1, 2010, texting while driving will be prohibited in Wisconsin. Violators could be fined not less than $20 or more than $400. Exempt will be operators of authorized emergency vehicles, emergency transmissions, and licensed amateur radio operators. The use of cell phones while driving will still be allowed.

The Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report, “Curbing Distracted Driving: 2010 Survey of State Safety Programs” says, “There have been concerns about distracted driving since windshield wipers were introduced in cars in the early 1900s. Opponents believed that the rhythmic movement might hypnotize the driver.” Contemporary causes of distracted driving mentioned by police on crash reports cited by the GHSA include: Cell phone use, children, eating, drinking, smoking, animals, reading, personal hygiene, visual obscurement, operation of electronic equipment, object or person outside the vehicle, sun in eyes, insect, livestock, animals outside the vehicle, navigation device, and Palm Pilot.

Wisconsin’s texting ban is part of a nationwide trend with states enacting new laws to address distracted driving. The state of Louisiana could be upping the ante.

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) has volunteered to participate in a one-month pilot study examining the effectiveness of Cell Control. The web site of the Baton Rouge-based company, Cell Control claims its product is able to “automatically stop distracted driving caused by cell phones, Laptops, hand helds and other mobile devices when car is accurately determined to be moving.”

Seven Cell Control devices donated by the manufacturer have been installed in the state automobiles of leadership of the Louisiana DOTD, connected to the on-board diagnostic ports under the dashboards. Incoming calls, emails and/or text messages are received and stored. However, the messages are inaccessible while the vehicle is in motion. Regular functions continue while the vehicle is stopped. Emergency 911 calls can always be made.

Today, the Louisiana DOTD. Tomorrow, your car?

Future models will be, to use the vernacular of car salesmen, loaded. A myriad of flashy new gadgetry in cars is on the horizon. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year, Intel and Google exhibited the latest computers for cars featuring 10-inch screens capable of showing high-definition videos, road maps in 3-D and Internet pages. Other features include GPS and Wi Fi. Federal officials are not pleased with these built-in distractions.

On the heels of President Obama signing an Executive Order prohibiting federal employees from using government-issued Blackberries or phones while driving, US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood told the political web site, POLITICO in an interview he believes new technology stands in the way of the fight against distracted driving.

“I've been talking to the CEOs of auto manufacturers, and I'm going to continue to meet with them,” Secretary Lahood said. “I'm going to continue to talk to 'em. I believe all these are distractions--I really do--and I just think they need to realize when they promote these kind of activities, they're promoting activities for people to be distracted while they're driving.”

Would the federal government mandate automobile equipment that could and could not be allowed? Is a device like Cell Control going to become standard?

Washington D.C. would never exert its authority over a private enterprise like the automobile industry, would it?

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