SPRINGFIELD - Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois Secretary of State and Illinois State Police along with corporate partners joined together today to remind Illinois motorists of two new laws taking effect January 1st. The new laws represent a groundbreaking effort to reduce crashes and save lives by curbing distracted driving on Illinois’ roadways.
“When motorists text and drive, they are putting themselves and others in serious danger,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig. “We are pleased to be among the 19 states that have outlawed texting and driving and we are confident it will lead to fewer crashes and fatalities in Illinois.”
On August 6, 2009, Governor Pat Quinn signed into law House Bill 71 and House Bill 72. The new laws ban motorists from sending text messages while driving in Illinois, and make it illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving through a highway construction zone or school zone. In addition, it will become illegal to compose, send or read text messages, instant messages and e-mail on a cell phone or surf the internet while driving. The ban also includes personal digital assistants and portable or mobile computers, but does not include global positioning systems (GPS) or navigation systems.
“With the increased use of technological devices, distracted driving has become a serious problem in our state and in the nation,” said Secretary of State Jesse White. “These new laws are important and will make our roads safer. No driver has any business text messaging while they are driving. Additionally, school zones and construction zones require drivers to slow down and pay special attention to their surroundings and, as a result, they should not be using a cell phone.”
Research shows driving while using a cell phone poses a serious distraction and reduces driver performance. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that driver distraction from all sources contributes to 25 percent of all police-reported traffic crashes.
“Every time a driver takes their eyes or their focus off the road - even for just a few seconds - they put their lives and the lives of others in danger,” said National Highway Traffic Safety Regional Administrator Michael Witter. “Distracted driving is unsafe, irresponsible and its consequences can be devastating.”
To create awareness regarding the dangers of distracted driving, IDOT is airing three commercials on cable TV and radio outlets statewide. One of the public service announcements feature the Wilhelm family whose son Matt was killed by a distracted driver.
In Illinois, numerous programs have been introduced in an effort to curb distracted driving. The nationally recognized Operation Teen Safe Driving program is a statewide initiative spearheaded by the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Division of Traffic Safety and supported by the Ford Motor Company Fund and the Allstate Foundation. The program enlists young people to teach safe driving skills to their peers. Operation Teen Safe Driving engages high school students in a competition to design community-based driver safety programs for teens.
As 2009 comes to a close, Illinois’ end-of-the-year, traffic enforcement initiative called Operation Save 100 continues to challenge law enforcement to stay extra vigilant for the remainder of the year in an effort to have at least 100 less fatalities on Illinois roadways this year compared to last year. If successful, Illinois will set a historic record by experiencing the fewest motor vehicle fatalities since 1921. Operation Save 100 began Friday, November 13. To date, 200 Illinois local law enforcement agencies, county sheriff’s departments and the Illinois State Police have made over 1,000 DUI arrests and issued over 7,000 nighttime safety belt citations.
“The use of cell phones, e-mail, text messaging devices and other potentially distracting behaviors, when combined with the operation of a vehicle, can threaten the lives and safety of motorists, passengers and pedestrians,” said Illinois State Police Director Jonathon Monken. “The ISP encourages drivers to take simple precautions to make our roads safer by practicing good driving habits, and limiting distractions which could potentially have tragic consequences.”
For information regarding the IDOT’s Division of Traffic Safety, go to www.dot.state.il.us/safety.html.