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Driving with a cell phone: Wisconsin law clarified

By Accident Lawyer on Monday, August 22nd 2016

La Crosse Accident Lawyer

Can you please clarify Wisconsin’s laws about cell phone use while driving? Can I text if I’m using voice controls?

The simplest answer, said attorney Joe Veenstra, is “don’t do it.”  Using voice controls might not be considered a violation of traffic laws (in Wisconsin), but if you get into an accident while voice texting, you might be considered to have been driving negligently because of it, even if you aren’t cited. The risk is just too great.

Speaking both personally and professionally, he said it takes only a few seconds for a driver to drift into an oncoming lane. “Nothing is that important that you can’t wait until you arrive where you are going or pull over,” he said. 

Wisconsin’s law specifically bans operating "any motor vehicle while composing or sending an electronic text message or an electronic mail message." That includes email.

Wisconsin’s distracted driving law, which says, “No person while driving a motor vehicle may be engaged or occupied with an activity, other than driving the vehicle, that interferes or reasonably appears to interfere with the person's ability to drive the vehicle safely.”

In other words, distracted driving is anything that takes your hands off the wheel, your eyes off the road or your mind off of driving. 

The texting ban does have an exception for voice controls, but using voice controls to text can still distract you. Then there’s the temptation to read what the other person texts back, taking your eyes off the road. According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, a distracted driver looking away for just five seconds while traveling at 55 mph has moved the length of a football field without paying attention—that’s more than 300 feet. 

An officer can stop a driver for texting even if he or she is not speeding or weaving on the road. The penalty for texting and driving is four demerit points and a fine plus costs totaling from $187.90 to $641.50.

Wisconsin law is stricter for drivers with learning permits or probationary licenses. They may not use their cell phones while driving except to call for emergency assistance. They face a fine and costs totaling $162.70 for the first offense and $200.50 for multiple violations in a year.

Veenstra’s advice? Jst sy no 2 txtng n drvng!


La Crosse Accident LawyerInformation provided by Joe Veenstra, La Crosse Accident Lawyer. For a La Crosse accident lawyer, call him at 608-784-5678.

Stephen Woodward contributed to this article.

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