Rhinelander lowers fine for drivers on cell phones - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Rhinelander lowers fine for drivers on cell phones

RHINELANDER (WAOW) -- The City of Rhinelander has made a change to the cell phone ban that passed last month.

People cited for talking on their phones while driving will pay a lower fine.

Rhinelander's city council reduced the fine to the minimum to keep it more in line with what cities like Wausau and Marshfield are doing. But that doesn't mean violators are getting off the hook.

Rhinelander city leaders say they wanted to make a change to the fine because it was too expensive.

"The original amount of $232 would definitely be on the high end for a forfeiture," said Mike Seffes, Rhinelander's police chief.

"When we did the calculation, we thought, 'Well, that's a little steep,'" said city administrator Blaine Oborn.

So they scaled it back to the minimum, but the costs don't end there.

"We dropped it down to our minimum of $10 which would be a fine of about $150 when you add all the other fees on it," Oborn said. "There are court cost fees."

Not everyone in the community is happy with the reduced amount.

"They did the city a disservice by doing that," said Jim Eifler of Rhinelander. "You put the amount of money higher, people think twice when it's coming out of their pocket."

"Personally, I think it should be at least [$150] if not more and stay high," said Andrea Roberts of Rhinelander.

Some think the fine wasn't lowered enough.

"For a lot of people, $150 is quite a bit of money," said Mark Nienstaedt. "I'm not so sure the fine needs to be that high."

Nienstaedt believes it will put the police at risk of losing public support.

"If too many people get burned with a fine like that, eventually it's going to come back on individual officers," he said. "I would rather they did not face that kind of criticism from the public because it's a good ordinance."

The Rhinelander Police Department says so far, they have only issued warnings and no citations.

Police are offering drivers an incentive to follow this new law. First-time offenders can get their citations thrown out if they buy a hands-free talking device.
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