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Greg Peck: Which are more dangerous: Drunks or cellphone users?

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Greg Peck
August 14, 2014

It was good news that Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb offered in a letter in Tuesday's Gazette. Fatalities from drunken driving crashes in Wisconsin fell 47 percent from 348 in 2003 to 185 in 2013. Still, that's 185 too many when drunken driving is preventable. That's why Gottlieb announced that, starting Friday and continuing through Labor Day, policing agencies across the state will again step up enforcement with their annual “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” crackdown.

That's fine, but you could argue that those using cellphones or texting while driving are equal menaces. I was heading up the Interstate last Friday when I passed a slower vehicle, glanced over, and saw a female motorist who was focused on her cellphone and—I think I saw this correctly but hastened to get clear—had both hands on her cellphone.

She later passed me, obviously done with her texting or phone call and able to refocus on driving and go faster.

Wisconsin, like most states, bans texting while driving, but that tough-to-enforce law doesn't deter many Badger State drivers.

Last weekend, I read a letter in the Wisconsin State Journal from an Oregon, Wisconsin, man. He agreed with a previous writer that causing an accident by texting while driving should carry the same penalty as drunken driving. He argued that talking on a cellphone is likewise irresponsible and a menace that should carry a comparable penalty, as well. He said he uses a hands-free phone in his car when he needs to talk and added that any texting can wait until he has stopped driving. He says he's had too many close calls with motorists who were texting during snowstorms, or while turning at busy intersections, or yakking on phones in rush-hour traffic.

Haven't we all?

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.



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