Statistics show that for 2015 (the last year for which numbers are available), 391,000 Americans were injured and 3,477 lost their lives as the result of car crashes caused by distracted driving.1 The NHTSA explains that texting while driving is particularly dangerous because the average texter takes his or her eyes off the road for approximately 5 seconds, which at 55 mph is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field with a blindfold on.
The problem is that our brains are not wired in such a way as to make us effective multi-taskers when it comes to safe driving. Reaction time goes way up and attention level goes way down when an otherwise safe driver is distracted by a cell phone conversation or text message. As cell phone use while driving becomes more prevalent, it becomes more likely that a driver won’t see the car in front of him make an unexpected stop until is too late.
Under Illinois law, if a driver’s cell phone use causes a car accident that results in great bodily harm, she can be fined up to $2,500 and serve a year in jail. If that car accident results in the death of another person, the penalty is up to 3 years in prison and fines of up to $25,000.
The Illinois statute does allow a driver to speak on a cell phone while driving if the driver is using a hands free device. However, a recent study found that speaking on a cell phone while driving inhibits driving skills more than if that person was driving while at the legal limit for alcohol intoxication. The study found this to be true even when the driver was using a hands free device.2
All moms and dads should remember that their children learn by example and this fact is just as true for safe driving as it is for anything else. If you set the example for your kids that it is never acceptable to engage in distracted driving while they are young, then you will have a lot more peace of mind when they hit their teenage years. Insurance rates for teenage drivers are high enough even when the teenager has a safe driving record; if you add an automobile accident caused by distracted driving, the insurance rates will likely become unaffordable.
At the Beard Law Firm we urge all drivers of every age to refrain from using cell phones or other electronic devices while driving. That text message or phone call can wait until you get to your destination, and if it can’t, find a safe place to pull over. And remember, if you have been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver; give the Beard Law Firm a call.