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A vote for safety

By Tom Fetters

The Wisconsin Assembly’s approval Tuesday of a bill that would ban texting while driving was a vote for safety — in more ways than one.

The Assembly’s 89-6 vote pushes the bill toward a conference committee, where its differences with a similar measure passed in October by the Senate will be ironed out before the tweaked version is approved by both bodies and sent to Gov. Jim Doyle for his signature.

Assuming the governor signs the legislation, Wisconsin will become the 20th state to forbid texting while driving. (Specifically, according to The Associated Press, the bill would ban drivers — except for emergency responders, licensed amateur radio operators and people reporting emergencies — from texting using cell phones, I-Phones, BlackBerrys or other such devices.)

And given that nearly 6,000 people were killed in 2008 in crashes related to distracted driving — including texting — according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the legislation should make driving on Wisconsin’s roads safer for all of us.

But Tuesday’s action was more than a vote for public safety. There was virtually no opposition to the legislation, with the Wisconsin State Telecommunications Association, AAA Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Insurance Alliance and a raft of law enforcement groups all lined up behind it, according to the AP. And given that, in this election year, lawmakers are eager to steer clear of controversy and for constituents to see them as supporting the public’s well-being, Tuesday’s action was a vote for political safety as well.

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