0400 DistractedDrivingIn the time it takes to read a text message, a car traveling at 55 miles per hour will cover the length of a football field. A lot can happen in that time, including a fatal crash.

Nearly 10 people die every day because of distracted drivers, statistics show. April is distracted driving awareness month, a good time to brush up on best practices and Illinois laws. State and local authorities will be stepping up distracted driving enforcement and teen education efforts.

“Though it may seem like you’re taking your eyes off the road for just a moment, a lot can happen when cars are traveling at high speeds,” State Senator John Mulroe (D-Chicago) said. “I encourage parents and guardians to talk about the dangers of distracted driving with their teens.”

Mulroe sponsored the 2013 measure that prohibits the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. Distracted driving is any activity that takes a driver’s attention away from the road, including texting, eating and operating navigation systems.

Mulroe’s law went into effect in 2014 and made driving while using a phone a ticketable offense. Drivers are still able to use hands-free features on their phones and one-touch dialing, but even those activities pose a risk, experts say. Research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found the following:

  • Drivers who text while operating a vehicle more than double their chances of being involved in a crash.
  • A driver removing his or her eyes from the road for two seconds doubles the risk for a crash.
  • The use of convenient voice-based and touch-screen features in the cabin of a vehicle – for tasks like texting or navigation – can distract a driver for as long as 40 seconds.

Distracted driving is a serious public safety hazard. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 10 people are killed and more than 1,000 people are injured every day in crashes involving a distracted driver. Nearly 400,000 people were injured and 3,477 individuals were killed in car crashes that involved distracted drivers in 2015 alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Illinois State Police and nearly 300 local law enforcement agencies around the state are participating in distracted driving enforcement efforts during Illinois Distract Driving Awareness Week April 23-27. The goal is to bring attention to the dangers associated with driving while distracted. A similar effort last year resulted in more than 18,000 warnings and tickets for distracted driving offenses.

State troopers also will lead activities around the state and use social media to educate teenagers about the dangers of and penalties for distracted driving. Fines in Illinois include:

  • $120 fine for texting and driving
  • $120 fine for using a hand-held phone while driving
  • $120 fine for teen drivers who use a cell phone while driving

For more information about Illinois Distracted Driving Awareness Week visit www.iddaw.org. For tips for talking to teens about distracted driving, click here.

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Springfield Office:
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