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Wausau passes cellphone ban for drivers


WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) -- Wausau’s City Council passed the ordinance banning cellphone use while driving. The ordinance will be active as soon as it is published, which should happen within a couple of days.

Council President Lisa Rasmussen was not surprised the ordinance passed quickly with little discussion. “The number of people that come to us with stories of things that have happened, or nearly happened, because of the issue of a cellphone in the hand of a driver going down the road, those stories are mounting and I think that we’ve seen a larger population that supports the ordinance versus opposes it, so I’m not surprised that it passed tonight the way that it did.”

The new ordinance makes it illegal for drivers to physically hold or manage the device while the vehicle is moving, but allows the use of hands-free devices such as bluetooth earpieces, speakerphones, and in car communications systems.

The cellphone ban is patterned after similar ordinances in Marshfield and Wisconsin Rapids, where officials claim the number of accidents due to inattentive drivers has dropped noticeably.

Wausau has been discussing this for about a year, and began moving the proposal through the committee process late last year. They also received input from law enforcement officials and comments from neighboring communities of Rothschild, Schofield, Weston, Kronenwetter, and Rib Mountain.

Many of the surrounding communities are poised to pass the identically-worded ordinance. This effort was done to help eliminate confusion for drivers crossing municipal boundaries, to intentionally keep the rules consistent throughout the Wausau metro area.