EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- It’s a “driving” epidemic that has splashed all over the headlines this year and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says there’s a reason for all the attention.
In its latest study, the group found texting and driving went up 50 percent last year.
The surge comes despite a rush by states, including Wisconsin, to ban the practice that’s merely habitual for some.
“They hear a message come in and just out of habit, they automatically grab their phone and start moving into sending a text back,” says Sergeant Jerry Voight with the Wisconsin State Patrol, Eau Claire Post.
Texting while driving is illegal, but according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the law is ignored by two out of every ten drivers out there.
“The bottom line is we still know people are texting while driving. It has got to stop. Its going to cause problems, create crashes,” says Voight.
As of last month, the Wisconsin State Patrol says its issued only four texting citations since the law began a year ago. But, it has also issued 61 inattentive driving citations and 192 warnings.
On Wednesday, a 19-year-old man was ticketed in Eau Claire for inattentive driving when he hit a tree. Officers say he reached for his cell phone instead of watching the road.
“Your attention has to be on driving and if you're doing something that causes you to lose focus on driving then its inattentive driving and u could be cited for that,” says Voight. “We've made a lot of improvements over the years especially in the area of seatbelt use and drunk driving but there’s still those drivers out there that they don't obey the law for whatever the reason is and they put the rest of the motoring community in danger by their careless actions.”
Voight says the State Patrol will continue to educate the public and inform drivers about the dangers of texting and driving, while enforcing the law through citations.