New law to enhance texting and driving punishment

New law to enhance texting and driving punishment

By JACKSON WILSON

Enquirer Democrat Reporter

Recently, the Illinois government has prided itself in cracking down on the penalties of texting and driving. Effective July 1, drivers who are caught using cell phones within the state will receive a moving violation to go along with a traditional fine. Three violations will result in a license suspension.

“There’s obviously been some serious traffic accidents around here, but mostly minor,” said Macoupin County Sheriff Shawn Kahl. “We haven’t detected as many texting-related incidents, but sometimes people can come up with false excuses to cover up what really happened. For example, they could say that they hit a deer or something instead of admitting to distracted driving. At times, it’s difficult for us to prove the truth of such an incident, but I think the extra emphasis on this law is going to be very helpful. It should definitely cause people to pay more attention to the road.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 600,000 individuals are on their phones while driving at any given moment. In 2017, 3,166 lives were lost as a result of distracted driving alone and the total nearly climbed to 3,300 last year. Among these individuals, cell phone usage is most common among drivers ranging from age 16 to 24. Between 2012 and 2017, nearly 20,000 people have died in crashes that involved a distracted driver.

Laura Adams, an educational analyst at DriversEd.com, has focused on data studies around all types of driver behavior and how it has impacted certain rates throughout the nation.

“Distracted driving in general has been on the rise for several years,” said Adams. “It’s kind of interesting because this is happening in a time when drinking and driving is actually going down. This is still an issue that has yet to be eliminated, but as we see the national statistics regarding alcohol decrease,  distracted driving goes up. We believe that the advancement in today’s technology is really at the root of that.”

Every moment is a crucial one on the road, especially in higher speed zones. An experiment by the NHTSA revealed that a driver can cover the length of an entire football field in five seconds traveling at 55 miles per hour.

“We know that people have been talking on phones while driving for many years, but now we are seeing things like texting, social media usage and even video. Four percent of our respondants have even said that they watch Netflix programming while they’re behind the wheel,” Adams added.

There are three types of distracted driving – visual, manual and mental. Texting involves all of them. This can be a deadly combination anywhere at any time, especially at intersections – according to Adams.

“We’re also seeing an increase in pedestrian deaths. It’s at an all-time high right now. This doesn’t just have to do with the drivers, but many pedestrians are also looking down at their phone with ear buds in as they cross the street.

Read the full story in the 6-13-19 edition and e-edition of the Macoupin County Enquirer~Democrat.

This graph depicts  the number of distracted driving deaths from 2014 to 2018 according to information provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.