Laws passed in 2014 to curb distracted driving, especially texting while driving, may have helped some, but fatalities and accidents in the Chicago area are still going up, studies show. A University of Illinois safety study showed there were 50 more traffic fatalities in 2015 than the previous year. An analyst said distracted driving was one factor, but added that more vehicles on the road, especially SUVs were also factors in those numbers.
Lawmakers say they are not trying to make more work for car accident lawyers, they feel they need to make the highways safer.
One state lawmaker is calling for tougher penalties, including jail time, for people who cause fatal accidents while driving. State Rep. Robert Martwick introduced legislation calling for texting while driving accidents to become class 2 felonies, as opposed to class 4 felonies as they are now. Currently people get probation or short jail sentences, but Martwick’s legislation would have put them behind bars much longer. He wants to give the penalties more teeth like the DUI laws have. His legislation did not pass in 2015, but he may try again.
Car insurance lawyers are now representing more plaintiffs injured because of distracted driving – such as texting or cell phone use. Marwtick’s legislation is trying to curb the accidents and injuries.
Though law was passed in 2014 requiring people to use hands-free communication, the fines for using a cell phone while driving were between $75 and $150, even for repeat offenders. The law did consolidate the state’s distracted driving laws making them consistent across the state, according to one car accident lawyer.
Under current law anyone under the age of 18 is prohibited from using any communication device even with hands free technology. People over 18 are required to use hands free technology, and all text messaging while driving is banned.
The Illinois State Police safety brochure says a person is 400 times more likely to get in an accident while using a cell phone, and 23 times more likely to have a crash while texting.
Public health officials, as well as law enforcement groups, are trying to educate people on the risks involved in driving while texting, or while using a cell phone. The Illinois state police says there are 1.6 million accidents across the nation each year where distraction, or drivers being inattentive, contributed to the accident. The distractions are keep car accident lawyers busy.