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Cellphone ban proposed statewide by Barca

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MADISON, Wis. (WSAU) -- A couple of state legislators are proposing a statewide ban of using cellphones while driving unless you have a hands-free device. Democratic Representative Peter Barca of Kenosha authored the no-texting-and-driving bill that became law, and he expects resistance for this new proposal as well. Racine Democratic Senator John Lehman has offered the companion bill in the Senate.

Barca says the bill isn’t about tickets, it’s about changing people’s habits to improve highway safety.

Several communities including Marshfield and Wisconsin Rapids have local ordinances against holding a phone in one hand and the steering wheel in the other. Wausau and Weston are considering it right now.

State Senator Jerry Petrowski has offered a Senate proposal that would ban cellphone use without a hands free device in construction areas only. That bill is already moving through committees in the Legislature.

In a press release, Barca said, "It is important for Wisconsin to take the strong step toward ending this unsafe behavior on our roads," adding, "This is a common-sense public safety proposal that would help keep Wisconsin’s drivers and pedestrians safe."

Barca cites recent statistics showing 18% of Wisconsin crashes and 14% of fatal crashes in 2009 were caused in part by distracted driving, but Barca didn’t say how many of those distracted drivers were using a cellphone.

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