President Obama bans text messaging by federal drivers — nationwide push against distracted driving continues

The outcome of a two-day distracted-driving summit in the nation’s capital included an executive order signed by President Obama late last week that forbids all federal employees from text messaging while driving on the job in a government-owned vehicle.

The Chicago car accident lawyers and the personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at Abels & Annes continue to monitor new laws banning distractions behind the wheel. Illinois became one of the latest states to ban text messaging (as well as the use of cell phones in school zones and road construction sites) with a new law passed this summer, which takes effect Jan. 1. Violators face fines and repeated violations can lead to license suspensions.

The City of Chicago already has a law in place prohibiting drivers from using cell phones.

Drivers violating the law can also be held responsible in civil court for the damage and injuries they cause in a Chicago car accident. The increasing number of laws banning text messaging and the use of cell phones by drivers is aimed at reducing the more than 4,000 car accidents a day the federal government estimates are caused by distracted driving.

“Driving while distracted should just feel wrong — just as driving without a seat belt or driving while intoxicated seems wrong to most Americans,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said at the summit, attended by more than 300 lawmakers, safety experts and industry representatives.

The Obama administration also said it would consider new restrictions on cellphone use by rail, truck and bus drivers as part of the initiative to reduce accidents caused by distracted driving.

A recent study by the University of Utah reported that distracted driving reduces reaction time as much as drunk driving. Incidents are most common among young, inexperienced drivers, according to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis.

LaHood said the administration would push states to pass laws against distracted driving, especially for school bus drivers. The department will also seek a new rule to revoke commercial drivers’ licenses for school bus drivers convicted of texting while driving.

As reported earlier this summer on Ables & Annes’ Chicago Car Accident Lawyers Blog, the summit follows a recent report in The New York Times, which found that Illinois passed one of just 10 new distracted driving laws nationwide, of the more than 170 that were introduced last year.

Driving while talking on cellphones has been banned in seven states, and texting while driving has been banned in 18 states, according to the Los Angeles Times. Seventeen states have made it illegal for school bus drivers to use cellphones while driving.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged the administration to endorse a proposed law he is sponsoring, which would require all states to ban texting or e-mailing by drivers or risk losing 25% of their annual highway funds.

“The fact is, the federal government cannot, by itself, outlaw texting while driving,” Schumer said, noting that states have the authority to make such laws. “But the federal government can make it hard for those states that don’t go along.”

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured or killed in an accident caused by a distracted driver, call the Chicago car accident attorneys and personal injury and wrongful death lawyers at Abels & Annes for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call (866) 99-ABELS. There is no fee unless you win.

Our law firm is about to enter settlement negotiations for two pedestrians that were injured by a driver who was distracted by his cell phone, lost control of his vehicle, and drove on to a sidewalk. The defendant was ticketed by the Chicago Police under the cell phone law, and he later pleaded guilty in traffic court.