Drivers must put away cell phones

by Daily Editorial Board

Cell phones are behind one in every four car accidents. These devices have a tremendous impact on our lives — but too often, they’re taking lives. 
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eight people die every day due to distracted driving. Using a cell phone increases the likelihood of a crash by eight to 23-fold. 
In response to this very real danger, House Democrats in Wisconsin tried to pass legislation that would ban handheld devices for the state’s drivers. While we agree this would have dramatically improved people’s safety, the proposal was not practically sound. 
This sort of law would have been hard for police to mandate and enforce. Currently, no state has banned drivers from using their phones entirely, although many have banned texting, and some have even outlawed making calls. 
However, by combining a ban on phone use while driving with education programs and strictly enforced fines for violators, legislators both in Wisconsin and outside it could reduce traffic fatalities.
Minnesota law currently prohibits novice drivers, commercial drivers and school bus drivers from using their cell phones while driving. If the state prioritized educating novice drivers about the dangers of distracted driving, it’s possible they’d be less likely to develop bad habits.
Wisconsin’s Republican-led House is willing to pass greater fines, but it has refused to ban cell phones entirely. We encourage lawmakers in other states to propose strong legislation that prevents distracted driving and to reach across the political aisle while trying to save lives.