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Rhinelander considering cellphone ban

RHINELANDER, Wis. (WXPR) -- Rhinelander could be the next community banning the use of cellphones while driving.  A committee Tuesday agreed to look into the ban over the next 30 days.

Alderman George Sauer brought the request forward, saying he's concerned about safety. "We've (all) seen somebody not driving properly, not paying attention while driving. On the way here I kept track and there (were) 12 people on cellphones between my house and city hall."

The Wisconsin legislature is toying with the idea of a statewide ban. Mayor Dick Johns favored that approach, saying Rhinelander police would do the work and the state would get most of the money. "Who is getting the money (from) the fines? Is it going to the state like a lot of others are? What's the percentage, got any idea?

Police Chief Michael Steffes says the current inattentive driving laws would cover it, but should the city pass a ban, officers could pull people over if they see people with one hand on a cellphone. "It isn't something that would be overly encompassing to our of icers or using up too much of their time because it would be another tool for them to stop a dangerous situation."

Steffes says if the ban is enacted, he would favor a period of warnings before fines are given so the public could adjust. The committee took no action, but will revisit the proposal next month at the committee level.

Marshfield and Wisconsin Rapids have already been using cellphone bans for drivers.  Wausau just passed a similar ban less than a month ago.  There is also legislation pending in Madison that would ban cellphone use statewide in construction zones.