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State law prohibits cell phone use while driving for many teens

Cell phone use generally is a harmless habit for many people. However, for some people cell phone use while driving may have serious consequences.

State law prohibits drivers with an instruction permit or probationary license—which includes many teenagers—from using a cell phone except to report an emergency. A violation of this law costs $162.70 with four demerit points on a driver’s license, and a second violation within a year costs $200.50 with another four demerit points.

“While using their cell phone, drivers might not be paying attention to rapidly changing traffic and road conditions.  Distracted driving is a serious problem even for experienced drivers. But it often is even more hazardous for teen drivers and others who are not experienced,” says Wisconsin State Patrol Superintendent Stephen Fitzgerald. “Traffic crashes kill more teenagers in Wisconsin and the rest of the nation than any other cause of death.  And distracted driving is a factor in many of these crashes.”

Although the law affects many teen drivers, 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.

 
In addition, Wisconsin law prohibits texting while driving for everyone regardless of age or experience. A violation of the law banning texting while driving costs $187.90 with four demerit points.

To prevent distractions from cell phone use and texting, 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.


Cell phone use and texting are just two of many types of distractions that increase a driver’s risk of causing a crash or failing to avoid one, according to Superintendent Fitzgerald.

“Every time you drive, you are legally and morally responsible for safely operating a potentially destructive, and even deadly, force,” Superintendent Fitzgerald says. “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.”

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Steve L. Olson, steven.olson@dot.wi.gov
Last modified: August 1, 2014

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