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Wisconsin New Resident Guide

Welcome to Wisconsin! As a new driver to this state you will need to be aware of our unique traffic laws and regulations. Here's what you need to keep in mind while driving in Wisconsin. Some of these rules may be the same as what you're already used to, but others will be drastically different!

Licensing and Residency Requirements



  • Whenever a person moves from the address named in the application for registration, or when the person's name changes, the person has 10 days to notify the DOT in writing of the old and new addresses or names.
  • Drivers with a Commercial Driver License (CDL) must apply for a Wisconsin driver license within 30 days. Other drivers new to Wisconsin must apply for a Wisconsin driver license within 60 days of establishing residency.
  • When you become a Wisconsin resident, you must register your vehicle and get Wisconsin license plates. You are a Wisconsin resident if:
    • Your principal residence is in this state;
    • You pay your income taxes here;
    • You are registered to vote here.


Graduated Licensing Program



Instruction Permit

Requirements

  • Must be at least 15 and 6 months;
  • Must pass road sign and knowledge written tests;
  • Must pass vision screening;
  • Must be enrolled in or have completed driver education;
  • Must be enrolled in school, have graduated, or homeschooled..

Privileges and Restrictions

  • You must be accompanied by someone occupying the seat beside you who has at least two years licensed driving experience, presently holds a valid regular (non-probationary) license and is one of the following:
    • A qualified instructor age 19 or older, or;
    • A parent, guardian or spouse, age 19 or older.
    • In addition to the parent, guardian, or spouse, a member of your immediate family may occupy seats in the vehicle other than the front seat, or a person other than a parent, legal guardian, or spouse who is age 21 or older. No other passengers are allowed. If you are under 18 years old, the licensed person accompanying you is required to have written authorization from your parent or legal guardian prior to the operation of the vehicle.
  • If you will be operating a vehicle during hours of darkness, you must be accompanied by a qualified instructor or a licensed person at least 25 years of age who has at least two years of licensed driving experience occupying the seat beside you.

Probationary Driver License

Requirements

  • Must be at least 16;
  • Must have held instruction permit for at least 6 months;
  • Must not have committed any moving traffic violations within the six months immediately preceding application;
  • Must complete driver education course;
  • Must accumulate at least 30 hours of supervised driving experience, 10 of which must be during hours of darkness;
  • Must pass road test.

Privileges and Restrictions

  • During first nine months or until you turn 18, following restrictions apply:
    • No passengers except immediate family, driving instructor, or one other person.
    • From midnight to 5 AM a parent, guardian, driving instructor or one other licensed person age 21 or older must be seated beside licensee, unless licensee is driving between his or her home, school, or work.
  • Restrictions will be extended if you violate them.
  • Points assessed as a result of a conviction for a moving violation are doubled for second and subsequent convictions while holding an instruction permit or probationary license.

Unrestricted License

Requirements

  • At age 19 teens are eligible for a full unrestricted license.


Violation Point Counts

The amount of points that go against your driver's license for specific types of violations.



6 Point Violations

  • Attempting to elude an officer
  • Failure to perform duty after accident
  • Operating under the influence of intoxicant or drugs
  • Reckless driving or racing
  • Speeding 20 mph or more over limit
  • Violation of occupational license

4 Point Violations

  • Deviating from traffic lane
  • Driving on wrong side of highway or street
  • Failure to yield right of way
  • Failure to yield to emergency vehicle
  • Imprudent driving, too fast for conditions, failure to have vehicle under control
  • Inattentive driving
  • Failure by operator to stop for school bus when red lights are flashing
  • Speeding 11 through 19 mph over limit
  • Unnecessary acceleration

3 Point Violations

  • Operating while revoked or suspended
  • Arterial or traffic control violation
  • Driving wrong way on one way street
  • Failure to dim lights
  • Failure to give proper signal
  • Following too closely
  • Illegal passing
  • Improper brakes or lights
  • Operating with expired license or without any license
  • Operating with multiple licenses
  • Prohibited or illegal turn
  • Speeding 1 through 10 mph over limit
  • Violation of restriction

2 Point Violations

  • Obstructing traffic
  • Parking on highway in traffic lane, defective speedometer

Driving Record

The point total may be reduced by three points for attending an approved traffic safety course. Only one reduction is allowed in a three year period.

When 12 or more demerit points are accumulated in one year, a suspension of the driver privilege is required, for a minimum of two months. Most convictions remain on driver records for five years from the date of conviction, except for serious offenses or alcohol-related convictions, which remain on the record for 55 years.

When 12 or more demerit points are accumulated in one year, a suspension of the driver privilege is required, for a minimum of two months.



Insurance Requirements



Minimum liability coverage amounts are:

  • $10,000 for property damage.
  • $25,000 for the injury or death of one person.
  • $50,000 for the injury or death of more than one person.

Drivers and owners of motor vehicles are required to show proof of insurance at traffic stops/accidents if requested by law enforcement.



Headlight Laws



You must dim your headlights from high to low beam when you are within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle, or when within 500 feet of a vehicle traveling ahead of you.

You must use your headlights:

  • From half an hour after sunset to half an hour before sunrise.
  • At any other time you cannot see a vehicle or person on the roadway at a distance of 500 feet.

You are permitted to intermittently flash your vehicle's high-beam headlamps at an oncoming vehicle whose high-beam headlamps are lit.



Implied Consent Laws



  • First Refusal- Revocation 1 year (30 days mandatory)
  • Second Refusal (within 10 years) - Revocation 2 years (90 days mandatory)
  • Third or Subsequent Refusal - Revocation 3 years (120 days mand or 1 year mandatory if 2 or more priors within 5 years).
  • Refusal While Transporting a Minor (< 16) - Minimum and maximum license revocation periods are doubled.
  • Persons Under 21 - Revocation 6 months (15 days mand), or 12 months if driver was transporting a minor < 16.


DUI Penalties



First Conviction

  • $150 - $300 fine;
  • 6 - 9 months license revocation.
  • If BAC .15 or higher, mandatory 1 year ignition interlock.

Second Conviction (within 10 years)

  • 5 days - 6 months imprisonment;
  • $350 - $1,100 fine;
  • 1 year - 18 months license revocation;
  • Mandatory 1 year ignition interlock.

Third Conviction

  • 45 days - 1 year imprisonment;
  • $600 - $2,000 fine;
  • 2 - 3 year license revocation;
  • Mandatory 1 year ignition interlock.

Fourth Conviction

  • 60 days - 1 year imprisonment;
  • $600 - $2,000 fine;
  • 2 - 3 year license revocation;
  • Mandatory 1 year ignition interlock.

Fourth Conviction (within 5 years) (Class H felony)

  • 6 months - 6 years imprisonment;
  • $600 - $10,000 fine;
  • 2 - 3 year license revocation;
  • Mandatory 1 year ignition interlock.

Fifth and Sixth Conviction (Class H felony)

  • 6 months - 6 years imprisonment;
  • $600 - $10,000 fine;
  • 2 - 3 year license revocation;
  • Mandatory 1 year ignition interlock.

Seventh Through Ninth Convictions (Class G felony)

  • 3 - 10 years imprisonment;
  • Up to $25,000 fine;
  • 2 - 3 year license revocation;
  • Mandatory 1 year ignition interlock.

Tenth or Subsequent Conviction

  • 4 years - 12 years, 6 months imprisonment;
  • Up to $25,000 fine;
  • 2 - 3 year license revocation;
  • Mandatory 1 year ignition interlock.

Child Endangerment

  • DWI with minor age less than 16 (felony) - A person who drives under the influence with a minor under the age of 16 in the vehicle commits a felony. The applicable minimum and maximum fines, forfeitures and imprisonment are doubled.

Alcohol Education and Treatment

  • Persons who are convicted of an injury-related DWI offense (without great bodily harm) or who refuse to submit to a chemical test under the implied consent law must submit to an alcohol assessment and comply with a driver safety plan. This plan may include a component concerning the effect that DWI offenses have had on either victim or a victim's family. There is a license suspension if a person does not comply with an alcohol/drug assessment (DWI screening), education or treatment program.


Open Container Law



The Open Container Law prohibits possession of an open alcoholic beverage container in the passenger area of any motor vehicle, by any occupant of the vehicle, on any public highway or right of way, whether or not the vehicle is in motion.



Red Light Violation Fines



  • Wisconsin does not have a state law governing red light fines.
  • Red light cameras prohibited.


Construction Zone Penalties



Numerous specified violations when workers are present are subject to an enhanced fine. The minimum fine is twice the original minimum fine, and the maximum fine is twice the original maximum fine.



Turn Signal Information



Signal your intention to turn or change lanes at least 100 feet in advance.



Hazard Light Information



Hazard light use is permitted for the purpose of warning other drivers of the presence of a vehicular traffic hazard requiring the exercise of unusual care in approaching, overtaking or passing.



Funeral Procession Right-of-Way Laws



  • The law gives funeral processions and military convoys the right-of-way at intersections when headlights are lit.
  • The lead vehicle must comply with stop signs and traffic lights, but once it has done so, all the following vehicles can proceed without stopping, provided they exercise due caution.
  • The procession must yield to an approaching emergency vehicle or when directed by a police officer.
  • Vehicles not in the procession cannot enter it unless directed by a police officer and other vehicles cannot join the procession and turn on their headlights in order to gain the right-of-way granted to the procession.


School Bus Laws



Requirements

  • Vehicles are required to stop unless proceeding in the opposite direction of a school bus on a divided highway.
  • You must stop a minimum of 20 feet from a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing.

Penalties

  • Failure to stop and remain stopped when required will result in a $30 - $300 fine for first offense.


Bicyclist Passing Distance



A 3-foot minimum passing distance is required.



Motorcycle Laws



Licensing

  • Persons under the age of 18 will not be issued a Class M license unless the person has successfully completed an approved basic rider course.
  • Failure of the driving skills test on 2 previous occasions necessitates successful completion of an approved rider course before a license will be issued.
  • Motorcycle permits are available and are valid for 6 months. A permit holder may only transport passengers who hold a license endorsed for operation of a motorcycle and have at least 2 years of driving experience. A permit holder may operate a motorcycle during the hours of darkness only when accompanied by such a passenger who is at least 25 years old.
  • The driving skills test may be waived by persons who hold a motorcycle permit and have completed an approved basic driver course.

Protective Gear

  • No person who holds an instruction permit or who is under the age of 18 may operate a motorcycle unless the person is wearing protective headgear, and no person may carry a passenger under 18 years of age unless the passenger is wearing protective headgear.
  • No person may operate a motorcycle without wearing a protective face shield attached to headgear, glasses, or goggles.

Headlights

  • The headlamps on a motorcycle must be in use whenever the motorcycle is in operation.

Sharing the Road

  • Lane splitting is not authorized.
  • Two motorcycles may travel side-by-side in a single lane.


Using the Shoulder to Pass



You may pass a left-turning vehicle on the right only if you can do so while remaining on the roadway or on a paved shoulder.



Passing Laws



Do Not Pass:

  • When approaching or upon a hill or curve;
  • When approaching within 100 feet of or traversing any intersection or railroad grade crossing unless the roadway is marked for two or more lines of vehicles moving simultaneously in the same direction;
  • When approaching within 100 feet of any bridge, viaduct, or tunnel unless the roadway is marked for two or more lines of vehicles moving simultaneously in the same direction;
  • A vehicle indicating its intention to make a left turn or a U-turn.

When Being Passed:

  • Give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle;
  • The overtaking vehicle may signal by honking its horn;
  • Do not increase the speed of your vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

No Passing Zone:

  • You may not pass in a no passing zone unless you are overtaking and passing a vehicle traveling at less than half of the speed limit. This law is intended to allow vehicles to pass slow-moving farm equipment.


Speed Limits



  • 65 mph on any freeway or expressway when posted;
  • 55 mph on highways not posted;
  • 45 mph on designated rustic roads;
  • 35 mph on highways within semi-urban district outside city or village corporate limits;
  • 35 mph on outlying district highways within city or village corporate limits;
  • 35 mph on certain highway in business, industrial and residential districts;
  • 25 mph on service roads with city or village corporate limits;
  • 25 mph on other highways within city or village corporate limits;
  • 15 mph in an alley;
  • 15 mph in a safety zone occupied by pedestrians and where a "public passenger vehicle" has stopped to receive or discharge passengers;
  • 15 mph in a "school crossing;"
  • 15 mph when passing a school during times when children are either going to or from a school or when children "are playing within the sidewalk area at or about the school";
  • 15 mph in town parks or recreation area when children are going to or from or playing within such areas.


Safety Belt and Child Safety Seat Laws



Safety Belts

  • Occupants 8 years and older must wear safety belts.
  • Police may stop vehicles solely for belt law violations.
  • The fine for a first offense is $10.

Child Seats

  • Children younger than 1 and all children who weigh less than 20 pounds are required to be in a rear-facing infant seat.
  • Children 1 through 3 years who weigh at least 20 pounds but less than 40 pounds are required to be in a rear-facing infant seat or a forward-facing child safety seat.
  • Children 3 and younger must be in a rear seat, if available.
  • Children 4 through 7 who both weigh at least 40 pounds but less than 80 pounds and who are less than 57 inches tall are required to be in a forward-facing child safety seat or a booster seat.
  • Children 8 years and younger and more than 80 pounds and 57 inches or taller must be restrained, and may use an adult safety belt.
  • Police may stop vehicles solely for child seat law violations.
  • The fine for a first offense is $75.


Emergency Vehicle Laws



Move Over

  • When you see any of these vehicles displaying flashing lights while stopped on or adjacent to the roadway:
    • Emergency vehicle;
    • Tow truck;
    • Highway construction or maintenance vehicle.
  • You must do the following:
    • If the roadway has at least two lanes for traffic proceeding in the direction of the approaching motor vehicle, and if it is safe to do so, move the motor vehicle into a lane that is not the lane nearest the parked or standing vehicle or machinery and continue traveling in that lane until safely clear of the vehicle or machinery.
    • If the roadway has only one lane for traffic proceeding in the direction of the approaching motor vehicle, or if you cannot change lanes safely, slow the motor vehicle maintaining a safe speed for traffic conditions, and operate the motor vehicle at a reduced speed until completely past the vehicle or machinery.

Following

  • Do not follow an authorized emergency vehicle responding to a call or alarm closer than 500 feet or drive into or park his or her vehicle within the block where, or within 300 feet of the driveway entrance or similar point of access to a driveway or road on which, fire apparatus has stopped in response to an alarm.

Collision Procedures

  • Stop at the scene or as close as possible without obstructing traffic more than necessary, and remain at the scene until all requirements are fulfilled
  • You must provide the following information to any other person involved in the accident, or any police officer at the scene of the crash:
    • Driver's name and address;
    • Vehicle registration number;
    • Show driver's license upon request.
  • Provide assistance to any injured person, including transporting them or making arrangements for transportation to a hospital or doctor, if necessary or requested.
  • Call police immediately if necessary:
    • If the crash resulted in injury, death, property damage of $1,000 or more, or property damage to state-owned non-vehicle property of $200 or more, you must report the accident immediately to the local police department or county sheriff.
    • If the driver is unable to make the report, any other occupant of the vehicle who is able to must do so.
  • Unattended vehicle or property:
    • If you have collided with a vehicle that is unattended, locate and notify the operator or owner of the driver's name and address and the owner's name and address. If you are unable to do so, leave a written notice providing this information and a statement of the circumstances.
    • If you have collided with other unattended property on or adjacent to a highway, locate and notify the owner of the driver's name and address, the vehicle registration number, and show your driver's license if requested. You must also report the accident in writing.
  • Report crash:
    • If the crash resulted in injury, death, property damage of $1,000 or more, or property damage to state-owned non-vehicle property of $200 or more, you must report the accident in writing within 10 days after the accident, unless the accident was investigated by a law enforcement officer.
    • If the driver is physically incapable of making a written report of the crash, the owner must make the report. If the owner is physically incapable of making the report, any other occupant of the vehicle who is capable of making a report must do so.


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