Law prohibiting cell phone use for many teen drivers takes effect Nov. 1st

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Texting and driving summit

MADISON — A new law that prohibits cell phone use for many teen drivers takes effect on November 1st. The law prohibits drivers with an instruction permit or probationary license from “using a cellular or other wireless telephone except to report an emergency” while driving. 

A driver violating this restriction on cell phone use is subject to a forfeiture of $20 to $40 for a first offense and $50 to $100 for a subsequent offense within a year.

“In a national study, 43% of 16 and 17-year-olds said they have talked on a cell phone while driving, and 40% of teens up to age 17 said they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put themselves or others in danger. We hope that the new law will deter teenagers and other inexperienced drivers from using their cell phone while behind the wheel, which can be a dangerous distraction,” Wisconsin State Patrol Maj. Sandra Huxtable, director of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Safety said. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 11 percent of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted.

“Every time you drive, you are legally and morally responsible for safely operating a potentially destructive—and even deadly—force. That’s why driving requires your undivided attention. Any lapse in attention to traffic or road conditions is a grave danger to you, your passengers and everyone else on the road. No attempt to multi-task in your vehicle, no phone call, and no text message is more important than a human life,” Maj. Huxtable said.

Although the law will affect many teen drivers, the cell phone restrictions also apply to other drivers with a Wisconsin probationary license, such as:

  • Drivers licensed in other countries
  • Persons with suspended or revoked instruction permits or probationary licenses
  • New state residents who have fewer than three years of driving experience
  • New state residents under the age of 21
  • New state residents who surrender a license that is expired for more than six months

Wisconsin law also prohibits texting while driving for all motorists of all ages. To prevent distractions from cell phone use and texting while driving, the State Patrol advises all drivers to:

  • Turn off your phone or switch to a silent mode.
  • Use voice mail to tell callers that you’re driving and will return the call as soon as possible.
  • If you absolutely need to use your cell phone to call or text, pull over to a safe area.
  • Ask a passenger to make a call or text for you.

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