Illinois residents likely aren’t happy with an array of new legislation that went into effect on July 1, but they should agree on one law that began on that day.
A new law classifies texting while driving as a moving violation that will be recorded on motorists’ driving records, as well as subject offenders to fines and court costs. A driver who is convicted of three moving violations in a 12-month span could face a driver’s license suspension.
Previously, first offenses were treated as non-moving violations, with subsequent offenses being labeled as moving violations.
Also, the beginning of July signaled the start of a higher taxes on gasoline and cigarette purchases, which surely angered many residents, despite plans to use those funds for Rebuild Illinois, a $45-billion plan for construction projects around the state.
The tougher law on texting and driving is much easier to support.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, the National Highway Safety Administration (NHSA) reported that 3,166 people were killed by distracted driving in 2017, and about nine people are killed every day in accidents involving distracted driving; over 1,000 people are injured each day in such incidents. Teens are the largest age group reported as distracted in fatal crashes, according to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey.
The NHSA also reported that sending or reading a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for five seconds; at 55 mph, a motorist can cover the length of a football field in that time.
Former Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the law in August 2018, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker is reportedly considering increasing the initial fine to $1,000 if distracted driving causes an accident resulted in serious bodily arm.
Drivers may not operate a mobile handheld device for any reason while the car is in drive, although there are exceptions for calling emergency personnel. Drivers may also use mobile devices while parked on the side of the road.
According to reports, 71 percent of Americans admit using their cell phones while driving. That number needs to fall immediately. Everyone in Illinois should agree on that.
Drivers might need to check their phones for an emergency, but in most cases, whatever they’re doing on the phone can wait until they’re done driving.