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Wisconsin man wants statewide ban on driver cellphone use

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Wisconsin man who spent three years lobbying Minnesota lawmakers to make it illegal for drivers to use of cellphones or other electronic devices while they’re behind the wheel said he wants his home state to adopt similar legislation.

Thomas Goeltz lost his pregnant daughter to an alleged distracted driver near Stillwater, Minnesota, in February 2016. His subsequent lobbying resulted in that state’s hands-free law, which took effect on Aug. 1.

The change prompted city leaders across the border in Goeltz’s hometown of Hudson, Wisconsin, to enact their own hands-free ordinance.

“It is a good thing,” said Hudson Police Chief Geoff Willems. “I think the community expects it at this point.”

Goeltz said he’s optimistic that Wisconsin will become the 19th state to enact a hands-free law, the Star Tribune reported.

“My hope is to jump-start the push for a Wisconsin state law in Madison so we can get a law later this year,” he said.

Since Wisconsin has no statewide prohibition on driver cellphone use, Hudson police officers are helping drivers adjust to Hudson’s new ordinance before they hit motorists with a $98 ticket.

For the next few months, the police will give out “What You Need to Know” pamphlets at every traffic stop, regardless of the reason for pulling a driver over, Willems said. Signs also have been displayed throughout the city to inform drivers and remind them that even holding their phones near their ears is enough to prompt enforcement.

Overhead electronic-message boards on highways and freeways show travel times, caution drivers about construction and crashes, and display notices about road conditions.

Motorists can read messages while they are on the road, but many wanted to see them included on the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s traveler-information website, 511mn.org

This summer, the state’s transportation department featured them on its website.

“Travelers are able to see what signs are deployed statewide,” said Garrett Schreiner, a freeway operations engineer for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. “Displaying these signs gives travelers another source of information they can use when planning their route.”

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