Lawmakers not stopping with ban on ‘texting while driving'

Lawmakers not stopping with ban on ‘texting while driving'

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MADISON - State lawmakers might be close to banning texting while driving, but they're not stopping there.

An Assembly committee last week held a public hearing on two more bills intended to crack down on inattentive driving, among teens and adults alike. This time, lawmakers are taking aim at cell phones and anything with a video screen.

One bill would make it illegal to use a cell phone while driving, unless the cell phone is hands-free. The hands-free exception would not apply to anyone under 18 with a probationary license or a learner's permit. The bill also includes an exception for using a cell phone in response to an emergency.

Another bill, co-sponsored by Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, would expand the state law that already prohibits inattentive driving by prohibiting drivers from using or looking at devices like DVD players while driving.

It's part of a bipartisan effort to deal with inattentive driving, Lehman said.

"The biggest debate in the Assembly last week was the texting bill. There was a lot of debate. It's a matter of how far do you want to go?" Lehman said. "All drivers need to be reminded that this is serious business. When you get behind the wheel, your attention should be on driving."

Both bills would have to be approved by the Assembly Transportation Committee before they could be taken up by the full Legislature.

Both the Senate and the Assembly have passed bills related to "texting while driving." Both houses must pass the same bill before it can be signed into law.

Gov. Jim Doyle has promised to sign a bill to ban texting while driving whenever it crosses his desk. Nineteen states currently ban it. Six states ban all cell phone use, whether for talking or texting.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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