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Wisconsin transportation department focuses on distracted driving

Federal lawmakers have designated April as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month to help call attention to what can arguably be termed an epidemic that takes far too many lives in Wisconsin and throughout the country every year. Wisconsin's Department of Transportation is recognizing National Distracted Driving Awareness Month by educating people through public service messages about the danger of focusing on anything other than driving while behind the wheel. Some of these are also available at its website http://www.zeroinwisconsin.gov/texting.asp.

To most people, distracted driving means texting or talking on a hand-held phone while operating a vehicle. Those things are certainly dangerous and in some cases illegal. However, common distractions include applying make-up, eating, looking for something in the car, finding a better radio station or anything that takes your eyes and/or mind off the road.

The Wisconsin DOT website also outlines the state laws on cellphone use while driving in our state. Texting while driving is illegal for everyone. Talking on a cellphone is illegal for anyone driving on a learner's permit or probationary license, regardless of age. This applies to both hands-free and handheld phones. The only exception is when the driver is reporting an emergency. Drivers cited for phone use can get points on their record, restrictions on their driving and fines. The DOT website points out any driver can be pulled over and ticketed for talking on a cellphone if it is impairing their driving. They can also be ticketed for doing so if they are stopped for another traffic violation.

While talking on a cellphone may not be illegal in many cases in Wisconsin, it is never wise. Statistics show that drivers using handheld phones (or other devices) quadruple their chances of having a serious accident. Wisconsin's DOT advises drivers to take simple precautions to decrease the chances of being distracted by their phone, such as turning it off or putting it in silent mode.

Many distracted driving auto accidents aren't recognized as such because it's not always immediately obvious to law enforcement officers what the driver was doing at the time of a crash. Personal injury attorneys can help victims of crashes and their families push for further investigation of the cause of a crash so that an at-fault driver can be held appropriately accountable.

Source: The Courier, "Our view: Driver distraction month" Diane Graff, Apr. 09, 2014

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