Examining Wisconsin’s texting while driving law

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)- It’s an easy way to avoid a costly ticket and stay safe. Law enforcement is reminding you to put down your cellphone when you’re behind the wheel.

It's now illegal to text and drive in more than 40 states across the country including Wisconsin.

But are fines enough to stop people from texting behind the wheel?

“Anyone who is using the cellphone or anything that is taking their attention away from the road is a distraction,” Driving instructor Ken Sigurdson said.

Sigurdson is an owner at All A's Driving School in Eau Claire. He says before his students get behind the wheel they talk about the dangers of driving while distracted. But Sigurdsson says it’s not just teens that take to texting while behind the wheel.

“It’s not just the young adults, it’s everybody has been affected by the technology,” Sigurdson added.

When it comes to accidents caused by cellphone usage the National Highway Transportation Administration says it comes out to more than one point six million crashes a year. That's why 40 states including Wisconsin have passed laws banning texting behind the wheel.

“The way that the texting and driving law is written is very difficult for officers to enforce,” Eau Claire Police Officer Kyle Roder said.

Roder says even after the legislature passed a texing while driving law it’s still tough to give out a ticket specifically for texting while driving.

“What we do is write a citation for inattentive driving. That's a straightforward statute that no person driving a motor vehicle should be engaged in distracting things,” Roder explained.

Since 2009 Roder says the department has issued 11 texting while driving tickets. In comparison they have issued more than 1,300 tickets for inattentive driving. Roder added that inattentive driving citations can be issued for a number of reasons, not just texting while driving.

The cost of a distracted driving ticket is $187.90 and four points off your driver's license.

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