Chicago attorney Howard Ankin has voiced his support for Illinois’s new distracted driving law, which went into effect on Jan. 1. The law places new restriction on cell phone use while behind the wheel, which Mr. Ankin says is a dangerous problem that leads to far too many car accidents in the city.
The statistics support Mr. Ankin’s view. According to data compiled by the Illinois Department of Transportation, there were 6,000 car accidents in Illinois between 2008 and 2012 that were caused by at least one driver using their cell phone. Thirty percent of those accidents resulted in a fatality.
Nationally, cell phone related car accidents lead to 3,300 deaths every year, which accounts for nearly 10 percent of all traffic-related fatalities. Drivers who are texting are 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident than drivers who are not texting.
Although looking at a phone to send a text may only take a few seconds, that short amount of time can have devastating consequences, especially if the car is travelling at high speeds. Looking down to send a text is often the equivalent of driving a football field while blind at 55 miles per hour.
Effective Jan. 1, Illinois followed the in the footsteps of many other states and cracked down on distracted driving. The new law bans drivers from using all phones except hands-free devices. That includes simply talking on a cell phone. Forty-one states ban texting while driving and 11 ban drivers from using a handheld device in any capacity while driving.
The first offense can lead to a $75 fine. Subsequent offenses can result in $150 fines and even license suspensions. Drivers who cause a fatal crash while using a handheld device could face up to three years in prison.
Mr. Ankin says the penalties are needed. The Chicago car accident attorney says that many drivers are aware of the dangers of cell phone use, but simply choose to use them anyway. He says the stricter penalties will prevent avoidable Chicago car accidents and fatalities.