Posted on Dec 04, 2011
John P. French, 22, of Stevens Point, was driving an SUV southbound on Highway Z in Wood County. Approaching the intersection with highway 73, he failed to notice the stop sign and slammed into the car of Robert R. Walker, aged 32, of Saratoga. Walker was killed in the accident, which occurred at 2 p.m. on December 6, 2010. French was sending a message to his girlfriend when he caused the crash, and has been charged with first–degree reckless homicide.

Wood County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Shawn Becker says, “It is customary since the law passed that when we investigate a crash, we ask if a cell phone was in use.”

The Wisconsin law banning texting while driving became effective on December 1, 2010, but is difficult to prove a violation before an accident has occurred. Police officers need to see a person violating the law, but can’t really differentiate between someone who is dialing to talk, which is legal, and texting, which is not.

Some places, like Marshfield, have solved the problem by prohibiting the use of a cell phone altogether. More citations on cell phone use have been credited with fewer accidents due to drivers distracted while texting and reading messages.