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WI Drivers: A Few Seconds Can Change Your Life

April 9, 2012

GREEN BAY, Wis. - April is National Distracted Driving month, and a timely new Wisconsin law will be published on Wednesday. AB 291 prohibits drivers under 18 with probationary licenses and instruction permits from using cell phones and other wireless handheld devices. The law will take effect in November.

Green Bay attorney Ed Vopal, president of the Wisconsin Association for Justice, says a few seconds of distraction can change your life.

"Accidents can happen very quickly on the roadway because the situation is always changing. Even a brief lapse of attention can place a driver, his or her passengers, and other users of the roads in very serious danger."

Vopal says drivers, particularly younger drivers, often make poor choices behind the wheel.

"One of the definitions I've read about distracted driving is 'distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving.' That's from"

Distractions can be visual (taking your eyes off the road), manual (taking your hands off the wheel) or cognitive (taking your mind off the road). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that distracted driving is responsible for more than 5,000 deaths and close to half a million injury accidents in the U.S. every year. Cell phone use is attributed to 18 percent of the fatalities in distraction-related crashes.

During National Distracted Driving month, hundreds of attorneys will speak at schools and community gatherings about the human and financial toll of distracted driving. Vopal says their message will be clear.

"Distractions are potentially dangerous when operating a motor vehicle. We are trying to get the public - people who operate motor vehicles on our highways - to understand and appreciate that even momentary diversions of attention on the roadway can lead to very serious and devastating consequences."

Wisconsin law prohibits texting while driving, but according to the Pew Research Center, nearly half of all teens say they have been in a car while the driver was texting.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI