Wisconsin’s texting and driving law has loopholes

It’s illegal to text and drive in Wisconsin, and some police are having a hard time enforcing the new law. Actually determining what someone is doing with their cell phone is a problem the lawmaker who authored the bill never anticipated. The only way for police to ticket you for texting and driving is if you admit to it.

Brown Deer Police Lieutenant Lisa Kumbier says her department only issued one texting ticket since the no texting and driving law kicked in last December.

State Patrol and Kenosha police have also written only one ticket. Of the 12 police departments FOX6 polled, eight have yet to write a single texting ticket.

The law is simply hard to enforce. Lt. Kumbier says, “Texting and e-mailing on a phone looks very similar to dialing a phone.”

To illustrate the point FOX6 investigators hit the road, and recorded several drivers with their eyes on their phones instead of the road. Lt. Kumbier says, “They just don’t realize when they take their eyes off the road, just for that split second, something may happen.”

According to Wisconsin law, drivers are still allowed to read text messages, dial the phone, scroll through contacts, check their calendar, or surf the internet.

FOX6 Investigators found another loophole that the law’s author didn’t know about. According to police training memos from Milwaukee, Brookfield, Racine, and Kenosha, texting while driving is only enforceable when a vehicle is in motion.

That means drivers are still allowed to text at stop signs, spotlights, even in heavy stop and go traffic.

Kenosha Representative Peter Barca says they wanted to make sure it was okay for drivers to text behind the wheel, but only they pull over first. So, lawmakers used the word “driving” instead of “operating”.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke made waves by vowing to confiscate drivers’ phones if they’re suspected of texting and driving. It’s unclear if he can legally do that without a search warrant.

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