Legislators, however, left a couple of loopholes for those motorists who can’t hardly wait for their messages:
While Wisconsin’s text messaging law makes writing and transmitting of messages illegal, it’s still OK to read an incoming text or surf the Net. The law only applies when the vehicle is moving, as well.
The bill that became Wisconsin’s anti-texting law was AB 496, pushed through by Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha (pictured).
Fines for first-time violators range from $20 to $400, with 4 points against the drivers license. Most tickets will cost violators $188, the Wisconsin State Patrol said. Texting is considered a primary offense, allowing officers to pull over and cite violators for that reason alone.
“We are trying to make people aware that we can’t bring our office and our living rooms into our cars,” said David Collins, head of the State Patrol. “We have to be very, very careful what we integrate into a vehicle moving.”
“No text message is worth a human life,” he said at a launch press conference Dec. 1 in Madison. Most drivers will receive warnings for the first month and a state awareness campaign begins Dec. 20, the Patrol chief said.
Wisconsin was the 25th state to ban text messaging in May, when the legislation was approved and signed into law by Gov. Jim Doyle. Thirty states now outlaw the practice in some form.
Critics of the texting legislation pointed to the existing inattentive driving law. Police say they’ll fall back on that law if other activities on handheld electronic devices lead to unsafe behaviors.
State officials say 18 percent of Wisconsin’s vehicle crashes in 2009 were caused by distracted drivers.