More Enforcement Needed to Reduce Number of Illinois Distracted Driving Accidents

Distracted driving accidents have recently experienced a significant decrease in Syracuse, New York and Hartford, Connecticut, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Two pilot projects in these areas are proving that increased enforcement of distracted driving laws can have a significant impact.

Illinois distracted driving accidents remain a primary safety concern. Even though drivers in our state are banned from text-messaging and driving — and Chicago drivers are banned from using a cell phone — enforcement is spotty at best.Our Chicago car accident attorneys understand that as technology advances, the risk of distracted driving accidents increases. To help combat this problem, Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy is currently proposing a law that would enforce a ban nationwide.

She is currently seeking co-sponsors, no one from Illinois has jumped on that bandwagon yet. Verizon Wireless has already voiced its support of the policy, the Safe Drivers Act of 2011.

“We applaud Rep. McCarthy for introducing the Safe Drivers Act of 2011. While mobile devices bring great benefits to Americans’ lives, they must be used responsibly while driving. We’re pleased that Congresswoman McCarthy is championing this public safety measure, and we fully support her efforts to enact the Safe Drivers Act of 2011,” says Peter Davidson, Verizon senior vice president of federal government relations.

The studies conducted in Syracuse, New York and Hartford, Connecticut reveal that areas with strict enforcement of these types of rules typically see a lower fatality rate.

“These findings show that strong laws, combined with highly-visible police enforcement, can significantly reduce dangerous texting and cell phone use behind the wheel,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Based on these results, it is crystal clear that those who try to minimize this dangerous behavior are making a serious error in judgment, especially when half a million people are injured and thousands more are killed in distracted driving accidents.”

The enforcement programs in these states were made possible by $200,000 in federal funds and $100,000 from the state. Each state studied driver habits based on increased police enforcement and public advertising about the effects of distracted driving. The pilot efforts included a “Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other” campaign.

Distracted driving has be a large concern of some in our state. According to statistics from a Naperville North High School study of nearly 3,500 observed vehicles, nearly 200 drivers were witnessed talking on their cell phones and nearly 100 were observed texting behind the wheel.

“I try to show them how statistics are related to their lives,” said teacher Hiram Baird said.

Public awareness may be one of the first steps in enforcing these regulations and encouraging drivers to put down their phones.

“The success of these pilot programs clearly show that combining strong laws with strong enforcement can bring about a sea change in public attitudes and behavior,” said National Highway Transportation Safety Administration‘s (NHTSA) Administrator David Strickland. “We applaud the work of the men and women of the Syracuse and Hartford police forces, and call on state legislatures, law enforcement and safety advocates across the nation to follow their lead.”

According to the NHTSA, there were nearly 5,500 fatalities that resulted from accidents involving a distracted driver in 2009 alone. Another 500,000 people were injured in these accidents. Distracted driving accidents accounted for nearly 20 percent of the total traffic fatalities in 2009.

A nationwide ban and a pledge to strictly enforce this ban may be the only way to effectively prevent distracted driving accidents and deaths in our state and in our country.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, the personal injury attorneys and wrongful death lawyers at Abels & Annes offer free and confidential appointments to discuss your rights. Call (866) 99-ABELS. There is no fee unless you win.

Additional Resources:

Keeping eyes on road harder than it seems, by Marni Pyke, Daily Harald
More Blog Entries:

National Safety Council Takes Nominations for 2011 Teen Driving Safety Leadership Award – Many Nominate Secretary of State Jesse White , Chicago Car Accident Lawyers Blog, July 5, 2011

Safe Driver Act of 2011 Could Increase Distracted Driving Laws in Illinois , Chicago Car Accident Lawyers Blog, July 1, 2011

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