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Cell Phones and Driving

By the Safety Squad at Southwest Health.

The rise in the popularity of cell phones has created a safety hazard on the road.  The dangers of texting and driving are well known; however, most drivers are unaware that talking on a cell phone is known to be just as dangerous.   The National Safety Council estimates that 25% of car crashes involve cell phones.  Of these crashes, 21% of drivers were having phone conversations and 4% involved texting.  Drivers using hand held or hands free cell phones are still four times more likely to crash than drivers who are not using their phone.

The statistics on cell phone use while are driving are staggering:

  • 90% of teenagers admit to knowing the dangers of texting, however 35% admit to texting while driving and 10% admit to having multi text messaging conversations.
  • Nearly 50% of drivers admit to answering their phone while driving.
  • 24% of drivers admit to initiating a call while driving.
  • 14% of drivers read text messages or emails while driving.
  • Pedestrians who text while walking are 4 times less likely to look before crossing the street or obey traffic signs.

Know the Law in Wisconsin

  • Texting while driving in Wisconsin is against the law for ALL drivers.  The penalty is a fine ranging from $40 – $400 and 4 demerit points.
  •  Distracted driving, defined as “being to engaged or occupied as to interfere with the safe driving of that vehicle” is against the law.  The fine is $173 and 4 demerit points.
  • No driver may use a hand-held mobile device when driving through a road work zone, except to report an emergency.
  • Hand-held or hands-free cell phone use while driving is against the law in Wisconsin for any individual with a probationary license or instruction permit, except to report an emergency.
  • Demerit points double if you have a probationary license or instruction permit and a prior moving violation.
  • Graduated Driver License restrictions are extended six more months if you have a probationary license and under GDL restrictions and have a prior moving conviction.
  • If you have an instruction permit, you must wait six months from the date of violation to be eligible for a probationary license.

Tips for Driving Safer with Cell Phones

  • Abstain from talking on a cell phone while actively driving.
  • If you need to make a call or answer a call, pull off the road into a safe parking area.
  • Use a hands-free device that allows you to keep both hands on the wheel.
  • Prior to getting on the road, practice in an empty parking lot how to use your hands-free device.  Get to know the device and how to use it.
  • Hands-free or not, postpone lengthy, intense, complex or emotional conversations.
  • Do not send or read text messages while driving.
  • Use your cell phone only if you or someone else has an emergency.
  • Hands-free is not risk free.

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