Most Kane County residents are aware of the dangers of using cell phones while driving, but many still answer the phone while driving or even text while driving. Significantly, statistics show that a driver who is texting has the same impaired response time as an intoxicated driver. If you must use your cell phone while driving, some helpful safety tips are:
– utilize a hands free device – avoid using your phone in bad weather, stressful situations, or heavy traffic – make phone calls when you aren’t moving – avoid looking up numbers or trying to take notes while driving and
– keep your conversations short
The risks are more pronounced when drivers text. While texting, the driver’s gaze constantly shifts between his phone and the road. Experienced drivers, including truck drivers, fare no better when texting. A study showed that truck drivers who text and drive are approximately 20 times more likely to get into an accident.
Currently, in Illinois, county or municipal localities decide their own laws about the use of cell phones while driving. Texting is banned statewide. Teen drivers and school bus drivers are not allowed to use cell phones anywhere in Illinois, absent an emergency situation. These rules may tighten further, as the House of Representatives of Illinois has recently introduced new legislation aimed at curbing cell phone use, in an effort to reduce distracted driving accidents. The House recently passed a bill which prohibits cell phone use near emergency scenes. House Bill 5099 bans cell phone use within 500 feet of an emergency scene, described as a scene where emergency vehicles are present, with flashing lights on. The legislation prohibits use of the cell phone, unless the phone is in hands-free mode, or the driver is contacting law enforcement. The bill also specifically prohibits video or pictures of the emergency scene.
The Illinois Senate is considering an even broader ban on cell phone use. House Bill 3972 prohibits use of all handheld electronic devices, including cell phones. Exceptions to this prohibition include devices that enable hands free use and voice operated phones. Fines proposed would be assessed in increments. As proposed, this first fine is $75, then $100, then $125 and then $150. The goal is to make driving using a cell phone an offense for which officers can issue tickets statewide. The prospect of receiving a ticket may be a significant deterrent to users of hand held cell phones. The House Bill, now approved, awaits Senate approval (as of April 9, 2012).
If you are involved in an accident with an individual who you think might have been on the phone, or you are certain the individual was using his or her cell phone, you should discuss your concerns with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney. The attorney will play a crucial role in preserving evidence in the case, by obtaining cell phone records of the other party in the accident.