Dad pushes distracted driving laws in WI after success in MN

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(WKOW) — A law in Minnesota went into effect Thursday requiring drivers to keep their eyes on the road and their hands off of cell phones, and now there’s a push to bring those restrictions to Wisconsin.

Minnesota’s law bans drivers from talking on their cell phones while driving, unless they’re using a hands-free device. An officer wrote the first ticket just two hours after it went into effect.

Tom Goeltz was instrumental in getting the legislation passed.

“I should be holding a two-and-a-half-year-old grandson right now rather than be talking to you about distracted driving,” he said.

On February 29, 2016, 22-year-old Megan Goeltz, who was pregnant at the time, died when a distracted driver smashed into her car outside the Twin Cities.

“I’ve had cell phones for 20 years,” Tom Goeltz said. “I’ve gotten one important phone call, and that was when Regions Hospital in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota called me and said your daughter’s been in a crash.”

Since then, Tom has been sharing her story and pushing for tougher laws in Minnesota like the hands-free law.

“She’s drilling me right now. I can feel it,” he said. “Saying, ‘Don’t stop, Dad.'”

Tom lives in Hudson, Wisconsin — 20 miles from St. Paul.

He’s now reaching out to lawmakers to tighten laws here, and they’re listening.

“I believe there will be someone or some people saved because of the work that they are doing,” said Rep. Shannon Zimmerman (R-River Falls). Zimmerman has been in contact with Goeltz, and he’s working alongside Rep. John Spiros (R-Marshfield) to expand Wisconsin’s current law banning phone use in construction zones to all roads.

“This bill would pretty much mirror that, basically saying when you’re driving, you need to be hands free,” Spiros said.

Spiros said he hopes to introduce the bill soon.

In the meantime, Goeltz has already started working on change in the Badger state. In Hudson, he introduced a hands-free ordinance that, if passed, would go into effect Monday.

Goeltz is encouraging other communities across Wisconsin to do the same.

“Megan and my grandson can’t speak anymore,” he said. “But they’re speaking through me. And I’m coming. I’m coming for the state of Wisconsin.”

You can learn more about the distracted driving problem in Wisconsin HERE.

Andrew Merica

Andrew Merica

Reporter/Producer, 27 News

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