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Illinois Distracted Driving Awareness Week

Distracted Driving

In support of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, from April 24 through April 28, Illinois has designated Distracted Driving Awareness Week. The Illinois Association of Police asked the governor to declare that week as National Driving Awareness Week. The goal is to bring awareness to the potential consequences and dangers that result from distracted driving. The governor and both houses passed resolutions, recognizing this week as National Driving Awareness Week in Illinois.

Why Do We Have National Driving Awareness Week?

We need to bring awareness to the potential dangers of distracted driving. Car accidents happen every day and phones are becoming smarter. Distracted driving has become a major cause of car accidents. This awareness may reduce the number of accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that in 2015:

  • 391,000 motor vehicle crashes occurred due to distracted driving.
  • About 3,477 people were killed due to distracted driving.
  • 10 percent of fatal crashes occurred because of distracted driving.
  • 15 percent of injury crashes occurred because of distracted driving.
  • 14 percent of police reported that a car accident happened because one or both of the drivers were distracted.
  • Texting and driving has become a big problem across the country, especially for young drivers between the ages of 16 and 24.
  • Young drivers have been observed using a handheld device while driving more than older drivers.

A AAA Foundation for traffic safety found that

  • While eight out of ten drivers thought it was unacceptable to text and drive behind the wheel, more than one third of those same drivers admitted to reading texts while driving.
  • Even though more people have died because of distracted driving recently, fewer drivers seem concerned about texting and driving.
  • Texting and driving is dangerous to everyone, not just the driver.

What Will Police Do During This Week?

In many counties across Illinois, there will be a higher level of enforcement of the state’s distracted driving laws. Volunteers will donate their time to help police departments. In some cities, if a volunteer sees a person using a handheld device while driving, a warning will be sent to that person via U.S. mail. Additionally, many officers will focus on distracted driving since the dangers are real, and since police want to reduce traffic fatalities and injuries.

How You Can Manage Common Driver Distractions

Lake Street Accident

  • Turn off your phone when driving. It is very easy to be distracted when a driver sees his or her phone light up if it is sitting on the dashboard. However, this can result in a serious injury. It might be best to just turn the phone off and put it away. This would prevent any temptation to answer a phone call, reply to a text, or even check an email. If you do need to make a call, it is best to pull over to a safe place.
  • If there is a passenger in the car, and if you are using GPS, let the passenger navigate. This will give you both hands free and you can focus on the road.
  • Do not eat, drink, smoke, put on make-up, shave, or do anything else that takes your focus away from the road. Everyone is always on the move, but plan your time accordingly so you do not have to engage in these activities behind the wheel.
  • If you have pets in the car, make sure they are secured. Don’t let them run around the car and distract you.
  • If you have kids in the car, make sure they have everything that they need. This will keep you from having to search through the car for something that they need but cannot find.

Distracted Drivers – How Insurance Rates Increase

Distracted Drivers

As smart phones become smarter, drivers have a harder time keeping their hands off of their phones while driving. With every convenience and entertainment option at your fingertips, many drivers find it difficult to focus solely on the road while driving. Even with a  changing auto industry with smarter and driverless cars, car accidents are increasing across the United States. Some believe cell phone usage contributed to this increase. As drivers become more dangerous daily, insurance companies  increase their rates to keep up with the increasing number of accidents.

Distracted Drivers

Smart phones seem to lead to more distracted drivers. A survey conducted by a major insurance company revealed that 36% of people surveyed admitted that they texted behind the wheel and 29% admitted to browsing the internet while driving. Not surprisingly, a majority of these drivers who admitted to this behavior were between 18 and 29. Unfortunately, these least experienced drivers become susceptible to accidents as road conditions frequently change. Accidents easily happen in the blink of an eye. Additionally, the amount of people who own a smartphone has increased over the years, which means more distracted drivers on the road. As the chief executive of one major insurance company calls this an epidemic issue for the country.

Distracted Driving Increasing Insurance Rates

Distracted driving is not anything new. Insurance companies have dealt with distractions before. However, as smartphone technology increased, the problem worsened. One insurer expects to raise their insurance rates by 8% this year. In 2016, the increase was 6.5% increases.  Additionally, the average insurance rate across the country has increased by 16% since 2011. The average cost is up to $926 a year. Previously, many predicted that the rates would fall with the addition of many safety features such as anti-collision gear.  Lastly, the low prices of gas increases the number of drivers on the roads, which leads to more accidents.

Most Do Not Text and Drive

Although surveys state over 1/3 text and drive, recent government studies disagree. Researchers found that only 2.2% of their surveyed population texted while driving. In 2006, the survey stated .4%. However, insurance companies claim that this study does not fully capture the number of people who text or use their phone.  These studies done by the government relied on police reports and observations. Not surprisingly, some people may not admit to using a phone behind the wheel.  Moreover, car insurers investigate crashes to find out how it happened. So, they can stay on top of trends and may have more accurate statistics.

How Illinois Bans Distracted Driving

Illinois passed a law in 2013 that banned drivers from using cell phones in Illinois while driving. Drivers can only use cell phones if the driver is using hands-free technology. Otherwise, they need to pay a fine. Additionally, Illinois has a law that specifically bans texting while driving.

Safe Driving Tips for Cell Phone Users

An accident could happen at any moment even if cars are becoming more accident resistant. For that reason, drivers should leave their cell phones in their glove box or in an area where it cannot be reached. This will allow drivers to avoid the temptation of wanting to check email or surf the web while driving. Additionally, more accidents behind the wheel will lead to higher insurance rates, as studies have already shown this trend occurring across the United States. The best practice is just to keep off the smartphone while driving. It may save your life or somebody else’s life.

Distracted Driving: Staying Focused on the Road in Illinois

Distracted driving is linked to more than 1.6 million crashes in the United States annually, resulting in serious injuries and sometimes deaths.  Some experts say the economic impact of these car accidents reaches nearly $40 billion per year. A recent American Automobile Association study suggests that almost everyone reaches for something, adjusts a control, or gets distracted while driving at some point, which is one of the reasons why distracted driving is such a big problem.

Efforts to Make Streets Safer from Distracted Driving

Distracted DrivingThe National Highway and Transportation Administration found that texting while driving is very similar to driving while intoxicated. In response to this alarming discovery, on January 1, 2014, the Illinois legislature attempted to make the streets safer by passing legislation to address the problem of driving while using a cell phone. Illinois banned drivers from using a cell phone to call someone or text someone while operating a motor vehicle, unless the person parked the car. Drivers over the age of 18 may use a hands-free device or bluetooth technology, but many critics consider these devices distraction and potentially dangerous. Even with hands-free technology, experts recommend that the driver pull over to somewhere safe to make a phone call. If a driver crashes because he or she is distracted, the driver may face criminal penalties and incarceration.

Can Illinois drivers ever use a cell phone while driving?

 

An Illinois driver may use a cell phone in the following situations:

  • Reporting an emergency situation
  • Using hands-free or in voice-activated mode
  • Parked safely on the shoulder of a roadway
  • Stopped due to normal traffic being obstructed and you put the vehicle in neutral or park

Has the new legislation helped decrease the number of traffic fatalities?

Unfortunately, the results of the new legislation underperformed in 2014. As a matter of fact, the number of traffic fatalities increased in Chicago. In 2015, there were fifty more fatalities that resulted from traffic accidents than in the previous year. Some state legislators have entertained the idea of passing new legislation that would impose even more severe penalties for distracted driving. Whether or not stricter penalties for distracted driving will reduce the number of car accidents is uncertain.

Are you a distracted driver?

Distracted DrivingWhen driving do you:

  • Shave?
  • Text or email?
  • Read or write?
  • Tune the radio?
  • Put on makeup?
  • Eat, drink, or smoke?
  • Talk on the cell phone?
  • Comb or brush your hair?
  • File, clip, or polish your nails?
  • Argue with another passenger?
  • Reach for the glove compartment?
  • Break up fights between your kids?
  • Put in contact lenses or eye drops?
  • Pick something up from the floor or between the seats?

If you answered yes to any of the previous questions, welcome to your status as a distracted driver. Almost every driver has engaged in at one point or another but any of these activities could easily lead to an accident. And some accidents can be fatal.

How do you avoid distracted driving?

To avoid being distracted, you can:

  • Limit interaction with other passengers
  • Avoid talking while driving
  • Avoid taking your eyes off the road
  • Keep both hands on the wheel

Most importantly, the idea of distracted driving needs to be taken as seriously as driving under the influence. Both driving while intoxicated and texting while driving can result in following too closely, not being able to brake on time, and weaving in and out of oncoming traffic. A recent study has found that drunk driving fatalities have decreased by 25% from 2002 to 2011, but distracted driving fatalities have increased by 22% from 2002 to 2011. Texting likely appears to cause the rise in distracted driving fatalities. With advances in technology, drivers easily get distracted behind the wheel, but drivers should always keep their eyes on the road and realize that a distraction could easily result in a death or serious injury.

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Ronald F. Wittmeyer, Jr. practices plaintiffs' personal injury law at his office in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

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