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Wisconsin’s New No-Phone Work Zone Law in Effect Oct. 1

A new law regarding cell-phone use on Wisconsin roads goes into effect October first. (Natalia Belatelova/iStockPhoto.com)
A new law regarding cell-phone use on Wisconsin roads goes into effect October first. (Natalia Belatelova/iStockPhoto.com)
August 31, 2016

MADISON, Wis. - Every day in the United States, eight people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured by crashes involving distracted drivers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Wisconsin is one of 46 states that have laws against texting while driving, but a new law that goes into effect October first takes another step, designed to protect construction workers in highway work zones in Wisconsin.

"Wisconsin's new law will prohibit any use of a hand-held communications device like a cell phone in a work zone," said Nick Jarmusz, director of public affairs for AAA Wisconsin. "So if you're on the phone, it has to be some sort of a hands-free setup, either with a Bluetooth or an in-vehicle system."

The construction-zone act was signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker on March 30, and enforcement will begin October first. Fines for violating the new law range from $40 for the first offense up to $100 for repeat offenses. According to Jarmusz, there's plenty of research to back this new law.

"There is a difference between talking to someone on the phone and talking to a passenger in the car," he said. "Just the way that your brain has to process the conversation is more taxing on your brain, diverts more attention away from the road when you're simply having a conversation with a passenger."

Democrats in the state Legislature in the just-ended session moved to prohibit use of hand-held cell phones while driving, but the proposal never made it out of the Transportation Committee. Jarmusz said AAA wants to make something very clear.

"What we would caution against is any sort of law that gives the impression that having a hands-free conversation is somehow safe, and is a recommended safety tip, when it really isn't," he said. "It really is also a dangerous distraction in and of itself."

The text of the new law, Wisconsin Act 308, is online at docs.legis.wisconsin.gov.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI