Wisconsin's roadways are on their way to becoming safer now that the state is the 30th in the country--in addition to DC and Guam--to ban texting while driving. Their new primary law, which went into effect today, carries fines between $20 and $400 for drivers found text messaging behind the wheel.
This is a great step in the right direction. And if you have any doubt about how important this is, I urge you to listen to Laurie Hevier's story.
Laurie, who I met at our second national Distracted Driving Summit in September, lost her mother Julie because of a distracted driver in central Wisconsin. We have featured her story on on distraction.gov in our recently launched "Faces of Distracted Driving" series.
Julie Davis lived a quiet life in Rudolph, WI. She ran a small hobby farm with her husband Larry and spent her days knitting, tending her vegetable garden, and making jewelry. But her true passion was for her friends and family--especially her fourteen grandchildren.
There were no skid marks, no signs of attempted braking.
As Laurie puts it, "One second she was there, and the next she was gone."
Phone records and the accident investigation indicated the driver who struck Julie was likely distracted by her cell phone. Crash reconstruction reports showed that the driver must have taken her eyes from the road for almost 9 seconds to miss seeing two pedestrians. And two witnesses saw the driver swerving back and forth just prior to the crash.
The collision that took Julie Davis' life was not a fluke accident; like the nearly 5,500 other fatal distraction crashes in 2009, it was the tragic outcome of a choice.
As Laurie says, "You make a decision when you get behind the wheel and drive your 4,000 to 5,000 pound vehicle. You are supposed to be safe and drive that vehicle from point A to point B, and your focus should be on the road."
I agree. And that's why we need good laws, like Wisconsin's new texting ban, to keep drivers' focus where it needs to be.
But we also need drivers to take personal responsibility for safe driving. Because, as Laurie says:
"Even if you ignore all of the statistics, and you think the risk is low, and that it won't happen to you, the consequences are huge."
If you have a distracted driving experience you'd like to share, please post a video on YouTube and email a link to email@example.com.