The state of Illinois is another step closer to joining 10 other states that ban motorists from using hand-held cell phones while operating a motor vehicle. Friday the State House passed a bill in a 64 to 46 vote, moving the motion forward to the state Senate for consideration.
The proposed mandate would allow an officer to cite a driver for using a hand-held cell phone without any other traffic offense taking place. States like Utah and Maine only penalize the driver when they have committed an additional violation.
Three offenses within the same year would result in a revoked Illinois driver’s license per the terms of the bill. Hands-free Bluetooth accessories would be exempt, allowing drivers to still talk and drive.
New similar laws in Illinois have barred commercial drivers from texting or using hand-held cell phones while driving, bringing the state into compliance with federal transport law. Others impose restrictions on cell phone use in school and roadway work zones.
Opponents to the projected safety measure cite the bill as unfair to those disabled with hearing issues and low-income individuals who can’t afford legally acceptable technology.
Distracted driving is a dangerous epidemic on America’s roadways. A driver is 23 more times likely to be in an accident if distracted by texting.
Texting, fiddling with a cell or smartphone, eating and drinking, grooming, smoking, map reading, adjusting the radio, watching a video, and programming a navigation system are all considered distractions. Essentially any activity is considered a distraction that inhibits the driver manually, visually, or cognitively.
In a sample study month of June 2011, more than 196 billion text messages were sent or received in the US. According to the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of all American teens say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger.
In 2011, 3,331 people nationwide were killed in distracted driving related crashes, compared to 3,267 in 2010. An additional, 387,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, compared to 416,000 injured in 2010. Saturday six people were killed, and five were seriously injured when a tractor-trailer plowed into an SUV carrying eight people in Kentucky. Police said they believe the driver of the tractor-trailer may have been distracted.
The US Department of Transportation has led an effort to stop texting and cell phone use of drivers behind the wheel. Since 2009, two national distracted driving summits have been held in an effort to ban texting and cell phone use for commercial drivers and encourage states to adopt tough laws. Several campaigns have been launched to raise public awareness about the issue.
Do you think the use of cell and smartphones should be banned when operating a motor vehicle in all states? Have you been guilty of driving while distracted?
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