According to the National Safety Council, cell phone use behind the wheel is responsible for causing 1.6 million
auto accidents every year in the United States. This is only an estimate, as cell phone use as a contributing factor to a crash is believed to be widely underreported.
According to figures from the Illinois Department of Transportation, between 2008 and 2012, Illinois police reported driver distraction from a cell phone as a factor in 6,000 crashes. These crashes resulted in 30 deaths, and at least 2,500 injuries.
As the end of 2013 approaches, 41 states ban texting for all drivers. Illinois has had a law in effect prohibited texting behind the wheel for all drivers since 2010. Now, in the New Year, Illinois will become the 12th state to ban all handheld phone use for drivers.
Handheld phone use ban goes into effect January 1
Currently, unless there is an applicable local law to the contrary, Illinois drivers may talk on a handheld cell phone so long as they are not in a construction zone or a school zone. Many Illinois jurisdictions, including Chicago, have already completely banned drivers from talking on handheld devices. As of January 1, 2014, however, handhold cell phone use of any kind will be prohibited for all drivers statewide. Using a cell phone to report an emergency and using a cell phone with hands free technology are exceptions to the new law.
Texting is, of course, typically more dangerous than talking on a cell phone behind the wheel. While both talking and texting take a driver's attention off the road, only texting involves a driver taking his or her eyes off the road. When compared to texting, talking on a handheld device behind the wheel is the lesser of two evils. But, it is still a factor in thousands of distracted driving accidents per year. By passing the statewide ban on all handheld cell phone use behind the wheel, lawmakers hope to make the roads safer for all Illinois motorists.
The new law will also likely have other benefits. One is ease of enforcement. It can be difficult for police to observe just what a driver is doing with a cell phone; once the new law takes effect, an officer who sees a driver do just about anything with a handheld cell phone will be able to make a stop.
The new law also may help Illinois qualify for federal distracted driving grants that it missed out on in 2013. Many states did not qualify for the federal funds because their laws against texting and driving technically did not prohibit texting behind the wheel while stopped, at a light or in heavy traffic, for instance. The current Illinois texting ban allows texting behind the wheel when stopped, but only if the vehicle is in park, or in neutral for a stick shift.
Call a Chicago car accident attorney if you have been injured
Whether a driver's behavior is technically in violation of a distracted driving law or not, if that driver is responsible for causing an accident, he or she can be held civilly liable for resulting damages. Distracted drivers who cause accidents — or, when applicable, their insurers — can be held responsible by accident victims to pay for things like medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
If you have been injured by a distracted driver, or if you have lost a family member, ensure you get the full monetary recovery you deserve: talk to a Chicago auto accident attorney today.