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Automobile Collisions / Workers' Compensation

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Wisconsin August law of the month: Teens and cellphones

An ever-growing, accident-causing distraction for drivers everywhere is cellphone use. The increased risk of causing a car accident or not avoiding one because of texting or talking on the phone is a focus of Wisconsin lawmakers and law enforcement officers. Of particular concern, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, is the combination of cellphone distraction and inexperience of teenage drivers.

Those with a learner's permit or on probation are only allowed by law to use a cellphone while driving in an emergency. The penalties for violations are $162.70 and four demerit points for a first offense. The fine increases to $200.50 for a second violation, with an additional four points assessed. Of more concern, however, is the fact that traffic crashes kill more teenagers in Wisconsin than other cause. Statistics show many of these crashes are related to driving distracted. Wisconsin law prohibits texting while driving regardless of experience or age, and it carries a fine of $187.90 and four demerit points if violated.

In addition to teens with instructional status, restrictions to cellphone use apply when a driver has a foreign license, is a new state resident under 21, has less than three years' experience, has a suspended or revoked probationary license or permit or an expired license exceeds six months.

Undivided attention is a requirement of safe driving everywhere. A person is legally and morally accountable if he or she operates a potentially destructive or deadly piece of machinery in a distracted or impaired state and causes an accident. It's not only about the risk to the inattentive driver; passengers and people in other vehicles often pay a steep price.

Anyone injured by someone else's negligence is entitled to seek compensation from those responsible. Lives are changed forever, and long-term consequences can affect families on both sides of the accident. The at-fault driver pays with punishment under the law that can affect every aspect of life. Teens especially can find school options change, and the financial detriment to their families can be burdensome. The injured or families of victims killed must find ways to rebuild and recover.

Most of the time, cellphone use is a wonderful convenience. But misuse while on the road can result in personal injury or liability. Is it worth the risk?

Source:  Wisconsin Department of Transportation, "State law prohibits cell phone use while driving for many teens" Aug. 01, 2014

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