Distracted driving: Wisconsin's April Law of the Month

Release date: April 15, 2021

Wisconsin State Patrol’s April Law of the Month reminds everyone that safe driving requires your full attention. Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including:

  • Talking or texting on your phone 
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to people in your vehicle
  • Adjusting the stereo, entertainment or navigation system

Texting is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that's like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.

“The increase in drivers texting and messaging puts everyone at risk,” Wisconsin State Patrol Superintendent Anthony Burrell said. “We want drivers to focus on the most important task: hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.”

Distracted driving is not only dangerous – it’s illegal

Wisconsin statutes (346.89) that address distracted driving include:

  • Inattentive driving in general, which prohibits activity that interferes with the ability to drive safely
  • A ban on cell phone use by probationary license holders
  • A hand-held ban for all drivers in work zones
  • A texting ban for all drivers
  • A ban for drivers to use devices for visual entertainment

Preliminary data for 2020 indicates that 29 people died in traffic crashes that involved distracted driving, up 12% from 2019. All drivers are at risk for distracted driving crashes. In 2020, 72% of Wisconsin drivers involved in distracted driving crashes were older than 25.

Drive Safe Every Trip

Wisconsin State Patrol remind drivers that taking two actions will greatly reduce deaths on our highways. “Our message to drivers is simple – buckle up, phone down,” Superintendent Burrell said. “We want everyone to reach their destination safely.”

Drivers are urged to put their phones away when behind the wheel. If you need to text, pull over and stop the vehicle. Consider these tips for safe driving:

  • If you must send or receive a text, pull over to a safe location and park your car first. (Stopping along interstate, freeways, and controlled access highways is illegal unless it is an emergency.)
  • If you have passengers, appoint a “designated texter” to handle all your texting.
  • If you can’t resist the temptation to look at your phone, keep it in the trunk.

Texting while driving is dangerous and illegal. No text, email, or social media post is worth a crash, injury or taking a life.

For more information, contact:

WisDOT Office of Public Affairs
(608) 266-3581, opa.exec@dot.wi.gov