In 2008, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association reported that nearly 6,000 people were killed and over 500,000 people were injured as a result of distracted driving. In some cases, those car accident injuries and deaths were caused by drivers texting or using hand-held devices.
According to the Governor's Highway Safety Association, by the end of 2010 thirty states will have laws in place that ban texting for all drivers. Nearly half of those laws were enacted this year, including Illinois' ban, which went into effect in January 2010. Under the Illinois law, all drivers are prohibited from sending or receiving text messages while driving.
Lawmakers are hoping the law will reduce the number of fatal and serious accidents on the road. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, cell phone use was a primary or secondary cause of over 1,000 accidents in Illinois during 2008.
Chicago's Hand-Held Ban
The city of Chicago was actually ahead of the distracted driving legislation movement when it banned all drivers from using hand-held cell phone devices in 2005. The ban requires drivers to use hands-free devices while driving, unless the car is parked or they are making an emergency call.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes that drivers who use hand-held phones are four times as likely to be involved in an accident that is serious enough to cause an injury.
Are Distracted Driving Laws Effective?
Despite the evidence and notable dangers of distracted driving, recent studies have called into question the effectiveness of laws banning hand-held devices. A report by the Highway Loss Data Institute found that banning the use of hand-held phones had no effect on crash rates. Even though cell phone use in cars was down, the motor vehicle crash rate remained the same. But officials point out that the ban is only effective if enforced and the public is educated about the dangers. Only time will tell if state-enacted distracted driving measures prove to make roads safer.