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Stop txting now when u r driving

Kaylee Schmidt, a sophomore at New Richmond High School, is currently enrolled in driver education classes. She said the ban on texting while driving is a good idea because it will make the roads safer.

On Wednesday a new texting while driving law went into effect in Wisconsin and could cost drivers between $20-$400 for breaking it.

The law, which Gov. Jim Doyle signed in May, bans the composing and sending of electronic messages or e-mail messages while driving a motor vehicle.

Wisconsin is one of 30 states to ban texting while driving, and among 11 states to enact the law this year.

The ban makes texting while driving a primary offense, meaning law enforcement officers can pull a motorist over simply for texting while driving. A secondary law only allows an officer to pull over a driver and issue a citation when another traffic violation is committed.

Both State Patrol Superintendent David Collins and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood support the bill.

"Distracted driving is an epidemic that kills thousands and injures hundreds of thousands more each year," LaHood said. "We're thrilled to reach the halfway mark toward laws in every state against this dangerous practice. Everyone on Wisconsin's roads will be safer because this law is on the books."

Although it wasn't illegal to specifically text and drive before, law enforcement officers were able to ticket drivers for inattentive driving, which carries the same penalty as the new texting law.

New Richmond High School sophomores Anna Landaal and Kaylee Schmidt agree that the law will make the roads safer.

Landaal said texting has become a bad habit, even in safe circumstances.

"I haven't called any of my friends in half a year, but I text them all the time," she said. "I rarely call anyone anymore."

Landaal said that while she believes texting behind the wheel is a big distraction, stereos are even more of a distraction.

"Just messing with the stereo or CDs is probably the biggest distraction," she said.

Laura Hanson, of School of Driving, agreed that texting isn't the only distraction drivers face.

"If everyone would just stop and think about all the things they do in the car..." she said. "This law is really designed to get you to stop and pay attention to the road while you're driving."

Schmidt said she's not very upset about the law because it seems too daunting to text and drive anyway.

"I can't multi-task that good," she said with a laugh. "I can't four-wheel and (text), so I don't think I could drive and text. My cousin tried to do it once and crashed her four-wheeler into a tree."

Hanson said she's been behind drivers she thought were drunk, but were instead texting.

A report by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety says that's exactly how distracted drivers are perceived.

According to the report, 5,870 people were killed and 515,000 injured in the United States in 2008 in crashes in which driver distraction -- including texting -- was reported to police.

Another report by Virginia Tech University's Transportation Institute showed texting while driving increased the risk of a crash or near crash 2.8 times more than an undistracted driver.

"Parents need to realize they aren't helping either," Hanson said. "Most of my students say they have to text because if they don't answer right away they'll get yelled at."

"I always ask my classes to think of the last 100 texts they got and how many of them are worth their life," Hanson said. "Texts can wait."

The texting ban exempts the drivers of emergency vehicles, people using popular global positioning devices and drivers who text message in cars using voice recognition equipment.