Despite stricter laws and increased public awareness about the dangers of distracted driving, a recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis indicates that drivers may not be heeding the warnings and that the use of electronic devices while driving remained relatively unchanged in 2012 from 2011.
According to an article in Safety and Health Magazine, researchers observed driver behaviors in 37,813 vehicles at 1,366 sites throughout the United States between June 4 and 17, 2012 and made the following findings:
- An estimated 5 percent of all drivers on the roads at any given daylight moment were holding a phone to their ear, the same as in 2011.
- Motorists visibly talking on headsets while driving also stayed about the same at 0.6 percent.
- The percentage of drivers who were seen texting or otherwise manipulating a handheld device increased to 1.5 percent from 1.2 in 2011 – not a statistically significant change.
- Visible use of handheld phones remained highest among 16- to 24-year-old drivers, at about 6 percent, and lowest among drivers 70 or older, at about 1 percent.
The dangers of using electronic devices while driving are well documented. For instance, drivers who text while driving are 23 times more likely to get into an auto accident and sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, which is the equivalent of driving 55 mph for the entire length of a football field, blind.
Every year thousands of lives are lost as a result of distracted driving accidents. In 2011, there were 3,360 distracted driving fatalities, and in 2012, there were 3,328 distracted driving fatalities. Another 421,000 people were injured in 2012 in motor vehicle accidents involving a distracted driver, which represented a nine percent increase from the estimated 387,000 people injured in 2011 as a result of distracted driving.
In an effort to decrease distracted driving, Illinois passed more stringent distracted driving laws effective January 1, 2014. One such law is the state-wide prohibition on handheld cell phone use. Drivers are required to use a Bluetooth headset or speakerphone if they want to talk on the phone while driving, and drivers caught using a handheld phone (except in the case of emergencies) may be subject to a fine of at least $75.
The penalties imposed on distracted drivers who injure or kill another motorist were also increased at the beginning of the year. Now distracted drivers who injure another motorist face penalties of up to $2,500 in fines and up to a year of jail time if convicted. Distracted drivers involved in a fatal car accident could be charged with a Class 4 felony, for which a conviction carries fines of up to $25,000 and up to three years of jail time.
At Ankin Law Office, LLC, our Chicago auto accident lawyers are dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of distracted driving accidents. Our skilled Illinois auto accident attorneys have vast legal knowledge regarding auto accident lawsuits, along with considerable experience representing clients in distracted driving lawsuits, which allows us to effectively advocate on behalf of our clients.
If you have been injured in an auto accident caused by distracted driving, contact one of our Chicago car accident attorneys to learn more about how we can help you seek financial recovery through a personal injury lawsuit.