Construction Zones and Phone Usage           

Wisconsin passed a law late last year that made it illegal to use your cell phone while driving through construction zones.  There are, however, a few exceptions which will be discussed below.  So as the summer construction season winds down, here’s what the law says.

Only Hands-Free in Construction Zones Allowed

The statute falls under the heading of inattentive driving.  Found specifically in Wis. Stat. Section 346.89, the law states:

“No person may drive any motor vehicle while using a cellular phone, including using the telephone for a purpose other than communication, where persons engaged in work in a highway maintenance or construction area or in a utility work area are at risk from traffic, except to report an emergency. This subsection does not apply to the use of a voice-operated or hands-free device if the driver of the motor vehicle does not use his or her hands to operate the device, except to activate or deactivate a feature or function of the device.”

Let’s break that down.  First, this applies only to the driver of the vehicle.  Second, it prohibits using your phone in the traditional manner, but also for non-communication purposes.  An example would be using your phone as a GPS device.  Third, you are allowed to use the phone to report an emergency.  And finally, it only applies to the use of the phone in your hands.  For example, a hands-free device operated through Bluetooth is still legal.

So what constitutes a construction zone?   A construction zone is defined in Wis. Stat. Sec. 340.01(22e) as “the entire section of roadway between the first advance warning sign of highway maintenance or construction work and an “END ROAD WORK” or “END CONSTRUCTION” sign or, in the case of a moving vehicle engaged in the maintenance or construction work, that section of roadway where traffic may return to its normal flow without impeding such work.”

When you look at the actual language of the statute, the law seems to only apply when workers are present.  Best practice would certainly be to not use your phone whenever you are driving in a construction zone.  But an argument could be made that the statute doesn’t apply if highway workers are not present.

If you are cited with inattentive driving under this section, you face a fine between $20-$40 for your first offense and between $50-$100 for your second or subsequent conviction within a year.

As always, if you are facing any charges, give us a call to discuss your case.