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Starting this weekend, hand-held mobile device use is banned in Wisconsin work zones

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MILWAUKEE — A new Wisconsin law takes effect Saturday, October 1st making it illegal to talk on a hand-held mobile device while driving through a work zone. The law is part of Wisconsin’s continued efforts to reduce distracted driving and enhance highway safety.

“Holding a phone up to the ear takes precious attention away from the road,” says David Pabst, director of the WisDOT Bureau of Transportation Safety. “In a work zone, there are narrow, shifting lanes and there is a lot of activity occurring in a condensed space. It’s vitally important that drivers stay focused and alert at all times.”

According to a press released from the DOT, drivers face fines of up to $40 on first offense and up to $100 for subsequent offenses. The law applies to anyone operating a motor vehicle within a work zone, including commercial drivers and workers.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation says mobile device use continues to be a leading cause of distracted driving. Texting while driving already is illegal in Wisconsin. The hand-held device law builds on efforts to enhance safety by creating an additional tool to curtail inattentive driving.

From 2011 to 2015, 47 people have been killed and 3,592 were injured in a total of 9,664 crashes in Wisconsin work zones. Year over year, the figures have shown steady growth. In 2011, there were seven fatalities and 750 injuries resulting from 1,708 work zone crashes. In 2015, there were 13 fatalities and 645 injuries resulting from 2,411 work zone crashes. Motorists and passengers suffer the vast majority of injuries and deaths.

“Distracted driving kills indiscriminately, but each of us has the opportunity to do the right thing for safety out on the road,” says Pabst. “The more we work to eliminate distractions and focus on driving, the safer each of us will be.”

There is an exemption granted in the event a motorist must use a hand-held mobile device to call 911. Bluetooth and hands-free devices remain legal to use while driving through a work zone, but drivers are encouraged to refrain from phone calls altogether to give undivided attention to the road.

“A lot can happen–fast–out on the highway,” says Pabst. “A vehicle traveling 55 mph covers the length of a football field in less than five seconds.”

Giving undivided attention to the road:

  • Consider turning off the phone until you reach your destination.
  • During a long drive, consider leaving a voice mail explaining how long you’ll be unavailable.
  • If you have to make a call, find a secure place to pull over and stop, such as a wayside or a gas station.

5 comments

  • bronco

    i thought the law in wisconsin was that you couldnt drive and use your phone but the again i thought it was the law in wisconsin that you you had to have car insurance on your car

  • Chris Millard

    My brother was working a accident scene as a volunteer firefighter in December 2015 when he was hit and killed by a distracted driver that was screwing around with his cell phone.By the time that the State Patrol and the local DA got done investigating all the driver got was two citations but no ticket to go against his drivers license So where’s the distracted driving law?

  • Josh Bratz

    I’m so angry I think I’ll create an issue and pass a new law to ban people from doing things I don’t like. Thank god this was passed now we just need to arrest people and imprison them for using a car radio, talking to a passenger, farting and creating a smelly distraction, back seat drivers, chewing bubble gum while driving, wearing sun glasses, and HID headlights. Progress!

  • Mathew Doughtry

    My sister was working an accident scene as a volunteer police officer in December 2011 when he was hit and killed by a driver wearing sun glasses, a tad darker than FDA and state regulated ordinances allow with polarized reflected surfaces and a green tint which is illegal in the state of Arkansas by the way, and was angrily speaking with his mother in law who heavily criticized his driving skills causing him to plow the car into a concrete barrier in an effort to kill the mother in law. By the time the State Patrol and the local DA got done investigating the driver only got 3 years in a state prison for man slaughter, but no distracted driving ticket! I wasn’t close with my sister and she owed me money, but I’m super angry!

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