Despite a new law, Chicago and Illinois motorists are still using hand-held devices in their cars. According to the Chicago Tribune, the number of citations issued for using hand-held devices has nearly tripled since the law took effect at the start of the year.
The reasons for the rise in citations may not be clear. But what is clear is that this form of distracted driving presents a serious challenge.
As the Tribune reports, between Jan. 1 and April 30, Illinois state troopers wrote 3,307 citations for distracted driving – compared to 1,122 from the same time period last year.
However, state troopers told the newspaper that they are having a difficult time enforcing the new law. “Right now … we’re nowhere near where we need to be,” Illinois State Police Lt. David Byrd said.
Byrd chalked up the rise in citations to people hanging on to the habit of using their hand-held devices in their cars.
“People live and breathe this stuff. Everything is instant, instant, instant. It’s hard for them to put it down. They don’t want to lose that connection,” he told the Tribune. “It’s a habit, like smoking or ice cream.”
In Evanston, which has enforced a hand-held device ban since 2010, 507 citations have been issued between Jan. 1 and March 31, according to the Tribune. Cmdr. Jay Parrott told the newspaper that the citations for April could reach as high as 300.
“We’ve become a society that is very impatient,” he told the newspaper. “Everybody’s time-crunched for this. Everybody’s time-crunched for that. A lot of it’s habit-forming and once you’ve formed a habit, it’s hard to break.”
Unfortunately, that habit carries a lot of risks. Just looking at the numbers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that 3,092 people were killed in accidents involving cell phone use in 2010 alone.
At some point every day, 9 percent of drivers are using their cell phone behind the wheel, including 5 percent who have their cell phones to their ears, the NHTSA estimates.
If you think it is just teens that are disobeying these laws, think again. The State Journal-Register reports that, in Springfield alone, drivers of all ages are disobeying the cell phone ban. No doubt those statistics can extend to the entire state.
So what should drivers do? For one thing, find a way to use a cell phone without using your hands. A lot of cars today come with Bluetooth capability to allow the driver to keep their hands on the wheel. If your car doesn’t have that feature, then a hands-free headset could work.
Never send or read a text while driving. Wait until you are pulled over to answer any text you receive. Your life is more important than that text message.
Even with new laws, it’s important to recognize how dangerous using a cell phone while driving can be. People need to break their cell phone habits and obey the law.
One second to look away can mean the difference between getting to work on time and going to the hospital – or worse.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a distracted driver, do not hesitate to contact us to learn more about your rights and options.