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In the spotlight: April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

A female driver looks down at her cellphone

Smartphones play an important role in our lives.

While they help keep us connected to others and often serve as a type of electronic personal assistant, using a mobile device while driving a motor vehicle can result in a devastating car accident that causes extensive damage, severe injuries, and death.

Without a doubt, it's been shown that the risk of being involved in a crash multiplies for drivers who don't pay attention to the road. Tragically, distracted driving has become a nationwide problem, and it's not just because of cellphones.

Along with electronic devices, drivers face distraction from passengers, eating food, drinking a beverage, self-grooming (e.g., applying makeup, combing hair, brushing teeth, shaving), and rubbernecking.

Still, texting while driving is considered one of the most deadly forms of distraction since it takes the driver's attention away on a visual, manual, and cognitive level.

Driving distractions can be fatal

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has declared the month of April as “Distracted Driving Awareness Month."

Throughout April, you might notice a larger police presence on the roads as officers look to beef up enforcement of the laws regarding cellphone use by motorists and remind drivers how dangerous it is to drive distracted.

The numbers don't like when it comes to distracted driving. According to data from the NHTSA:

  • There were 3,142 people killed in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2019, which represents a 10% increase from 2018.
  • Of all the fatal crashes that took place in 2019, roughly 9% of them involved a distracted driver.
  • From 2012-2019, over 26,000 people have died in crashes caused by distracted drivers.
  • The most likely group of people to use an electronic device while operating a motor vehicle are drivers ages 16-24, though older drivers were only somewhat less at risk.

What is the penalty for texting and driving in Illinois?

Like many states, Illinois doesn't take distracted driving lightly. According to the law, using a handheld mobile device while operating a motor vehicle counts as a moving violation, meaning it will appear on your driving record.

The law does not apply to:

  • Using your phone to call 911 for an emergency.
  • Using your phone in hands-free or voice-operated mode, including the use of a headset.
  • Using your phone while parked on the shoulder of a roadway.
  • Using your phone when the flow of traffic has stopped or is obstructed and your vehicle's transmission has been put in neutral or park.
  • Using a single button on your phone to initiate or terminate a call.

Drivers who violate the law may be fined up to $75 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense, $125 for a third offense, and $150 for a fourth or subsequent offense.

Keep in mind that those who break the law and cause a car accident that results in "great bodily harm, permanent disability, disfigurement, or death to another" have committed aggravated use of an electronic communication device.

Penalties for this type of violation are more severe. For instance, a driver may be charged with a Class 4 felony if the driver was using a cellphone and caused an accident that resulted in another person's death.

Tips to avoid texting while driving

Smartphones are engineered and designed in a way that makes them hard not to look at, especially in today's fast-paced world that seemingly requires us to be "plugged in" at all times. Nevertheless, that doesn't make texting while driving any less dangerous.

If you are constantly tempted to look at your phone while operating a motor vehicle, these suggestions can help you become a more responsible driver:

  • Use gas stations, parking lots, and other safe locations to pull over and park your car if you must read or send a text while driving.
  • Designate a passenger to answer your phone calls, read and respond to texts, and announce app notifications.
  • Put your phone in the glove box, the trunk, or someplace where it's not easily within reach so you don't attempt to use it while you're driving.
  • Speak up if you are a passenger in a vehicle with a distracted driver. Politely ask them to stop what they're doing and turn their attention to the road ahead so that they don't end up causing a preventable car accident.
  • Stay focused. Far too many people give themselves a pass when it comes to cellphone use and texting while driving simply because they've gotten away with it so far. Remember, just because you feel comfortable using your phone behind the wheel of a car doesn't mean you're being safe.

Our car accident lawyers win for those who have lost

If a distracted driver caused a crash that resulted in injuries to you or a loved one, a car accident lawyer can keep the insurance company from pushing you around and fight for the compensation you're entitled to.

Depending on the circumstances of your injury, you may be compensated for your current and future medical bills, your lost wages, loss of earning capacity, replacement services, your pain and suffering, and other applicable damages.

At Coplan & Crane, our highly skilled attorneys proudly serve injury victims in Oak Park, Chicago, Rockford, and all of Illinois. Our dedicated legal team understands how to build a strong case that gets results, no matter how straightforward or complex the claim may be.

Find out what we can do for you. Contact us today for a free consultation. It would be our honor to speak with you about your potential legal case.

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