An Assembly committee held a public hearing Thursday on a bill that would make it illegal to use cell phones while driving.

There’s overwhelming evidence that using a cell phone while driving increases the risk of a crash, so says Representative Jeff Smith of Eau Claire, who co-authored legislation banning the practice.

The Democrat cites the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which says drivers who use cell phones are four times as likely as other drivers to be in a crash.

“The Harvard Center for Risk Analysis reported that the annual cost of crashes caused by cell phone use is estimated at $43 billion.”

That report also says that cell phone use contributes to an estimated 6% of all crashes, amounting to 636,000 crashes and 2,600 deaths annually.

Smith’s bill (AB-429) prohibits an individual from using a wireless telecommunications device while driving. There are exemptions.

“There is an exemption for use of a wireless telecommunication device in response to an emergency or by an operator of an authorized emergency vehicle.”

GPS devices and hands-free phones can be used. Those under 18 on a probationary license are prohibited from cell phones altogether — hand-held and hands-free. Violators can be fined up to 400 bucks.

A 2006 University of Utah study shows motorists who talk on a cell phone while driving are just as impaired as drunken drivers.

The full Assembly on Tuesday passed a ban on texting while driving.

Jackie Johnson 1:33


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