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Parents of high-school-age drivers might want to take note

Except for emergencies, new drivers in Wisconsin are now prohibited from using their cellphones while behind the wheel.

Wisconsin Act 164 went into effect Nov. 1 banning first-time drivers from driving while using a cellphone. The law was passed last spring.

"I think it's absolutely a good law to have," said River Falls Police Sgt. Jon Aubart. "It's a good one for parents to remind their kids about not using a phone while driving.

"There are enough driving distractions and beginning drivers already have a lot of things they need to pay attention to. Use of a phone divides their attention."

Aubart said police officers were briefed this week on the new law and how it's to be enforced.

Existing state law already bans cellphone texting for all Wisconsin drivers.

National studies show cellphone use is a big distraction for drivers and contributing factor in many crashes, including fatal ones.

The cellphone ban applies to young drivers who get an instructional permit and then move on to a nine-month, graduated license that carries certain driving restrictions.

Besides first-time teenage drivers, cellphone bans also apply to drivers of any age who hold a Wisconsin probationary license:

  • New state residents under the age of 21
  • New state residents with fewer than three years of driving experience
  • New state residents who give up a license that is expired for more than six months
  • Drivers licensed in other countries
  • Those with suspended or revoked instructional permits

Probationary licenses last for two years.

Penalties for those violating the new cellphone law are minor.

"They're just treated like traffic tickets," Aubart said, adding there's no automatic loss of driver's license or accumulation of demerit points that could lead to a license suspension.

For the complete story, please see the Nov. 1 print edition of the River Falls Journal.