A bill that would prohibit the use of cell phones in highway construction zones has gotten a public hearing at the Capitol. If passed into law, the measure would join an existing state’s 2010 prohibition on texting while driving. But is this just one more unenforceable or seldom enforced restriction on the use of cell phones by drivers? Representative Penny Bernard Schaber (D-Appleton) questioned the bill’s author, Senator Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon).
“When I talk to my local police, they tell me they can’t enforce the no texting law that we passed, and they tell me that it’s very difficult to enforce all these various parts and pieces of cell phone bans,” said Bernard Schaber.
Petrowski said the proposed work zone cell phone ban, like the existing ban on texting while driving, would have an educational impact – a reminder to drivers that it’s not okay to be using the phone in a construction zone.
“It is a problem, but people need to realize it’s a problem,” he said. “So education is really an important part of this, and I think education is one of those steps along that road.”
Bernard Schaber also questioned whether the state ought to simply ban all use of hand-held cell phones behind the wheel. “Why do we keep skirting around a full ban on cell phones while we’re driving?”
“I think this will really allow the members of the legislature to be able to determine if everybody is ready to go and ban handheld cellphones,” Petrowski said. “If you’re out in the middle of nowhere and there’s no traffic around . . . it probably doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. But if you’re downtown . . . at rush hour, going 65 miles an hour and there are cars bumper-to-bumper on either side of you, it really is not the place to be using a cell phone.”
Petrowski has already amended the bill to allow for the use of cell phones in the case of emergencies in construction zones. He testified on the bill Tuesday before the Assembly transportation committee.