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Local Officials: It Would Be Tough to Enforce Cell Phone Ban

Last week, NTSB announced a proposal for a nationwide cellphone ban, but will the ban make its way into Wisconsin?

After a tragic multi-vehicle accident caused by cellphone distractions in Missouri last year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) wants to ban cell phone usage in cars.

Local officials agree that distracted driving of all kinds is increasingly problematic, but they're not sure how enforceable a cell phone ban would be.

Barry Weber, chief of police for Wauwatosa, said if he hasn’t noticed more accidents, he has for sure noticed worse driving.

“Bad habits and bad driving,” Weber said.

Anna Ruzinski, chief of police for Menomonee Falls, said she strongly discourages people from talking on their cellphone while driving and encourages people to pull over if you need to make a call.

And United Driving School in Brookfield holds exercises that help students understand the negative effects of being distracted by cellphones.

"We would support the ban if it was passed by the state because we have to inform students about the state laws," said instructor Olivia Hoessler. "We teach safe driving and how students can stay safe on the roadways."

Still, the message doesn't sink in with everyone.

In Waukesha County the State Patrol gave 32 citations and nine warnings to “inattentive” drivers for the entire year, according to a report compiled by the Bureau of Transportation Safety. Inattentive driving does not just include cell phone use, but is a generalization of any distractions a driver faces while on the road.

In Milwaukee County, four citations and 17 warnings were given by state troopers.

How will police enforce it?

The state's year-old no-texting law appears to have been effective. State troopers have given just two citations and no warnings from state troopers in Waukesha County. Would a cell phone ban carry the same weight?

“It would be hard to regulate," said Weber. "Who texts with a cop right next to you?"

Ruzinski agreed that the ban would be hard to regulate, though talking on a cellphone would be more apparent for police.

Debbie Hersman, NTSB spokesperson, said during a CNN press conference that she knows the law enforcement would find a way to enforce the ban such as looking for speed irregularities, lane shifts and other abnormalities.

“Then again we can’t even make people wear seat belts,” Weber said.

Maj. Sandra Huxtable of the Wisconsin State Patrol and director of the Bureau of Transportation Safety, said she doesn’t see this law making its way into Wisconsin anytime soon, but said people might see driving laws that would restrict cellphone use in school and construction zones.

Both police chiefs said they would have to agree with the proposal if the ban happened to be enforced in Wisconsin because it would be part of the law.

“Drivers should drive with safety in mind,” Huxtable said. “When you get an operating license that is a privilege.”

Joseph December 23, 2011 at 03:30 PM
And how has the texting ban worked out for WI? I still people doing it. I see people who aren't even on the phone failing to keep a constant speed. People should take driving schools, like ones for SCCA, but they won't because they don't see the need, and yet, you are far more likely to get into an accident than you'll think.
Chris December 23, 2011 at 04:36 PM
I agree Joseph, I have a child that just got her license. She could have tested earlier, but I wouldn't agree to it until I was satisfied that she had enough road experience, and showed me that she could be a defensive driver. I don't feel the "education" she received in the standard driving course was enough.
Joseph December 23, 2011 at 04:58 PM
One huge thing our driver's ed programs need to teach is how to drive in a life and death situation. They teach you how to stay in your lane, not what/how to do when you hit ice or slick out. The best way to learn things is to do them. Sure I can tell you to counter steer, but if you don't have the feel for it, most people over steer and still wreck. I just got a RWD car and I've been driving FWD for my 12 years of driving. I look forward to getting some snow where I can go into an empty parking lot to learn how to truly drive in snow. However, if I end up breaking the rear end out, I'm sure some cop is going to write me a ticket, even though I'm trying to learn how to drive better without being a danger to anyone else.
Vicki December 23, 2011 at 06:48 PM
What on earth is so important that a call can't wait until you reach your desitination or untill a person can pull over. Believe it or not we did survive without cell phones 20 years ago. I carry 2 cell phones they can stay in my pocket or purse until it is safe to use them. I value my life and yours.
Brittany December 29, 2011 at 09:53 PM
I agree with you Vicki. It's one thing if you have a hands free system in your car and even that seems like too much distraction to me sometimes. There is no reason to answer your phone or text while you're driving. I don't know how many times I've gotten stuck behind someone who was driving too slow, or swerving or not watching lights and signs and almost hit me. It's stupid and inconsiderate!

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