Bill proposed would require hands-free cell phone use

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Two southeast Wisconsin lawmakers have introduced a bill to require drivers to use a hands-free device to take phone calls. A similar law just took effect in Illinois.

The Wisconsin State Patrol says 18 percent of all crashes involve distracted driving, according to 2009 data.

"Whether it's answering the phone, eating, reaching, reaching for something in your vehicle, it's the type of distraction that takes your hands off the wheel but takes your eyes and mind off the road," said North Shore Batallion Chief John Maydak.

Nearly every state in the country including Wisconsin already bans texting and driving. But the laws vary widely from state to state on how or if you can use your cell phone. In Wisconsin, only drivers with learners permits and an intermediate licenses are banned from using their phones.

Now for the second time, a bill has been introduced to ban nearly all drivers from holding their phones during calls.

"I introduced it on at the end of last session and things were so tumultuous at that point it was hard to get the Legislature to focus on things of this sort. But it's clear that this would lead to far less crashes and far less serious injuries and far less deaths annually," said St. Rep. Peter Barca (D).

There are very few exceptions to this proposed law -- and those include using a cell phone during emergencies. Proposed fines would range between $20 and $400 depending on which offense it is. Next up for the bills -- getting assigned to committee.