What Are Wisconsin’s Laws on Texting While Driving?
Originally published February 21, 2022. Updated June 15, 2023.
Texting while driving is against the law in Wisconsin. It is a form of distracted driving that takes drivers’ attention away from the road. In the US alone, almost 3,000 people are killed and 400,000 are injured each year because of distracted driving crashes.
Wisconsin’s fatal automotive crashes reached a 5-year high in 2020, with 540 deaths. Despite this, Wisconsin has a lower motor vehicle death rate than over 62% of other US states. This may be in part because Wisconsin enforces strict distracted driving laws, particularly when it comes to cell phone use.
If you’ve been involved in an accident because someone was using their phone while driving, you may be entitled to compensation. Your first step should be to seek legal representation from the experienced Green Bay car accident attorneys at Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers.
Wisconsin Laws on Distracted Driving
The law states that drivers may not write or send electronic text or mail messages while behind the wheel. Although any and all forms of cell phone use while driving are not strictly prohibited under Wisconsin law, distracted driving legislation gives prosecutors room to punish and discourage it. If a driver is distracted by any activity that interferes with their ability to drive safely, they may be breaking the law. This enables police to pull over and give a ticket to a driver for talking or texting on the phone.
Probationary license holders are prohibited from using their phones for any reason while driving, apart from emergencies. Commercial drivers are required to use hands-free devices to make phone calls. In addition, the law states that all cell phone use is prohibited in work zones as well as near car crashes.
The wording of this law means that messaging via social media apps while driving may be interpreted as an offense. Wisconsin’s law on texting while driving falls into the primary enforcement category, meaning police can pull over drivers for this offense.
Wisconsin’s distracted driving laws also ban drivers from viewing screens or video monitors for entertainment. Watching videos, scrolling social media, and web browsing are not permitted while driving, even when stopped at a stoplight or stop sign.
However, some exceptions allow drivers to use handheld devices. Special cases include:
- Reporting an emergency
- Using a GPS device
- Using a device built into the vehicle, such as GPS or park assist
- Using hands-free, voice-operated devices
- Drivers operating emergency vehicles
- Licensed amateur radio operators
However, even when you use a hands-free device to communicate legally, you can still experience cognitive distraction because your mind is on the call instead of the road and the other vehicles around you. This can impair your ability to drive safely.
Drivers may be deemed at fault for a crash while speaking on the phone, even if the way they’re using the phone is not strictly against the law. To avoid fault in a Wisconsin car accident due to distracted driving, make calls or send ETA messages before you depart rather than while you’re en route to a destination.
Penalties for Texting While Driving
In Wisconsin, drivers operate within a license point system. Drivers receive demerit points on their driving record for committing offenses such as speeding. Drivers pulled over for texting and other distractions may be subject to a fine and receive 4 demerit points.
License holders begin with a clean slate of 0 points on their driving record. Your driving license is suspended if you accumulate 12 demerit points within a calendar year. For regular license holders:
- 12 to 16 points warrant a 2-month suspension
- 17 to 22 points warrant a 4-month suspension
- 23 to 30 points warrant a 6-month suspension
- Over 30 points warrant a 1-year suspension
If distracted drivers cause an accident, they could be liable in a civil claim. An injured citizen or collision victim may press charges against the offending driver to claim damage expenses and compensation for their injuries and medical bills.
Call Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers When You’ve Been Injured
Auto accidents can be challenging to recover from, physically and emotionally. If you, a family member, or a friend were the victim of an accident because of an inattentive driver in Wisconsin, get help from a local auto accident attorney.
At Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers, we take the time to get to know you so we can provide the support and legal counsel you need. Using our skill and expertise in automotive litigation, we can negotiate your compensation package with the insurance company or represent you in court if your case goes to trial.
Our aim is always to protect your rights and get you the maximum settlement possible. For more information or to schedule your free case review, contact our law firm today.