Heads up and hands free: What to know about navigating work zones

The American Automobile Association, more commonly known as AAA, is projecting that the upcoming Memorial Day weekend will see roughly 34.6 million people drive 50 miles or more, marking the highest number of holiday drivers since 2005. Here in Wisconsin, the group is estimating that close to 694,000 people -- or 90 percent of all travelers -- will be going by car, truck or SUV.

What this means is that anyone making plans will need to give themselves some leeway when it comes to time, as there is a very good possibility that traffic will be heavy from sunup to sundown. Compounding this problem is the fact that there will more than likely be lengthy stretches of road construction.

As frustrating as it can be to get stuck in slow moving construction traffic, motorists will need to think twice before venting their frustration over their smartphone.

That's because a new law took effect here in Wisconsin last fall making it one of only 13 states in which drivers are expressly prohibited from using handheld smartphones while navigating a work zone. Indeed, those caught doing so may be fined $40 for a first offense and $100 for subsequent offenses.

It's worth noting that while drivers cannot talk on a handheld smartphone in a work zone, they are permitted to use a hands-free device. As for texting, state law dictates that it's never permitted, so driver location makes no difference.

While some might question the need for this work zone law, consider not just how close motorists come to road workers, but also the high rate of speed at which they are typically traveling. Consider also that the in 2014 alone, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation documented 22,194 distracted driving crashes, which equates to roughly one wreck every 20 minutes.

In fact, WisDOT is recommending that anyone planning a long road trip for Memorial Day -- or any other time -- should consider taking the following actions concerning their smartphone:

  • Keep it turned off and record a voicemail message indicating how long you will be out of contact
  • Pull over to a safe location to use the phone
  • Have a passenger handle all phone communication

Always remember if the negligence of another motorist has resulted in the loss of a loved one or left you with serious personal injuries that you can seek justice for your immeasurable losses. 

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