Cell Phone Ban While Driving Ordinance for Wausau Moves Forward

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The Public Health and Safety Committee meeting gave the idea the thumbs up Monday night. Now, it goes to the full city council.

This conversation about the ban started a couple months ago, and since then, the City of Wausau has explored the option.

Now with positive feedback from surrounding municipalities, they're moving forward to get the cell phone ban officially passed.

"Distracted driving is definitely a big problem," Wausau Police Department Captain Ben Bliven said.

Even though it may not seem distracting to you, making that call in the car to family, friends or work may just have to wait in Wausau come February if the new cell phone ban is passed.

"They could be searching for music on the phone. They could be using it for a GPS. They could be playing on Facebook," Bliven said. "They could be on 'Words with Friends,' We don't know."

On Monday night, Captain Bliven was one of many Public Health and Safety committee members who voted to pass a cell phone ban draft in Wausau.

The draft they passed will go to the full city council next month for a final vote.

"Texting and driving is very difficult for us to enforce," Bliven said. "You can see someone using the phone, but you don't know if they're texting or composing an electronic message."

The committee met last week with surrounding municipalities to get them on board.

Representatives from the Town of Rib Mountain, Village of Kronenwetter, Town of Maine and Everest Metro Police were just some who attended. According to the committee, the municipalities who attended seemed to be on board and very interested in joining the ban.

There were two options they discussed.

"The first alternative was that you could only use a GPS device if it was integrated into the electrical system in your vehicle," Wausau Assistant City Attorney Tara Alfonso said. "The second alternative allowed people to use any GPS device whether or not it was integrated into the electrical system in their vehicle."

However, Alfonso said the final option that passed ended up being a mix of the two.

You'll be able to use a GPS in your car or on your phone, but it will have to be hands-free or voice-activated.

"The committee believes that they don't want people operating those and taking their vision off the road," Alfonso said.

If the ban passes and you do take your eyes off the road to use your cell phone, you'll have to pay $111 fine.

If this should pass next month, at the city council meeting, Bliven said it'll be enforced almost instantly.

Bliven said they'll look into special signage in town to communicate when you could potentially be fined for being on your phone.

He also said distracted driving is the primary ticket they issue when crashes occur.

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