Fatal Distracted Driving Accidents: How Much at Risk are You Here in Indiana and Illinois?

Fatal Distracted Driving Accidents: How Much at Risk are You Here in Indiana and Illinois?

What’s the real risk of being hit by a distracted driver as you drive home today — or as your teenager, your spouse, or your best friend drives our local roads and interstates? Distracted driving is a serious danger in this country and it’s only getting worse. But what about Indiana and Illinois?

It’s especially dangerous here in our part of the world, where so many of us maneuver along Indiana roads and Illinois streets alongside big rigs and semi trucks. For more on the danger we face from commercial truck crashes in our communities here in Indiana and Illinois, read our recent post here.

New FMCSA Safety Campaign for Driving Alongside Big Rig Semi Trucks: “Our Roads, Our Responsibility”

Sharing the roadway with one of these heavy commercial trucks is a danger and increases the risk of a motor vehicle accident all by itself. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has just announced its new public awareness campaign called, “Our Roads, Our Responsibility,” which works to educate drivers about how best to drive when there are these big rigs, semi trucks, tractor trailers, 18-wheelers, motorcoaches, etc., on the roadway with them.

FMCSA Administrator Scott Darling said:

“Our Roads, Our Responsibility supports our agency’s core mission of reducing crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving commercial motor vehicles on our roadways. Roadway safety is a shared responsibility, and this initiative encourages everyone who uses our roads to be champions for safety. We look forward to working with all our partners to raise awareness around this issue.”

Tips include recognizing that semis (big rigs, 18 wheelers, etc.) all have very wide blind spots where the trucker cannot see a car or motorcycle in front of him, or to the side or behind his rig. Drivers are encouraged to drive defensively, giving the trucker plenty of opportunity to see their vehicle and realize that there’s someone else driving alongside their truck. Another tip: never tailgate a commercial truck; doing so is inviting a crash.

Which means that here in Indiana and Illinois, our roads are more dangerous for us than drivers in other parts of the country because of the high number of commercial trucks that drive through our communities and along our interstates. Add to that increased danger — the rising danger of distracted drivers sharing those roadways, too.

Distracted Driving Involves All Sorts of Distractions

One of the scariest realities of driving today is not just that distracted drivers are zipping along the roads with us (and our loved ones), but that the problem isn’t easily defined or resolved. It’s not just one thing that is causing distracted driving fatalities. It’s lots of things.

Most people are aware that texting on a mobile phone while driving is dangerous. Most states outlaw the practice now. However, texting isn’t the only distraction that is causing the epidemic of distracted driving accidents.

There are all sorts of ways for drivers to be distracted. Talking on the phone while it’s being held in your hand is another distraction. Handheld phone conversations are also outlawed in many states (for a synopsis of Indiana and Illinois distracted driving laws, see our previous post).

Hands-free phone conversations by a driver are also considered to be a distracting driving danger by many experts. This is true even though gadgets that allow drivers to search contact lists or directories on their dashboard and call via their vehicle’s internal technology are very popular in most car models being sold today.

However, distractions are really anything that take the driver’s attention away from the business at hand, which is driving his or her motor vehicle on a street, road, or highway. Eating food while driving, disciplining the kids in the back seat, or putting on make-up in the car while driving are also potentially deadly distractions.

Then there are mobile phone applications. Some very popular apps are becoming recognized dangers for distracted driving accidents, including the new game Pokemon Go as well as navigation apps like Waze and GoogleMaps.

It’s become so serious that the State of New Jersey is considering passing legislation that will make it illegal in that state to drink coffee while driving a car. It’s a controversial measure and it’s not law yet, but even the drafting of this bill demonstrates how serious the threat of distracted driving has become today.

Distracted Driving Accidents in Indiana and Illinois

Federal jurisdiction does not allow for a national law prohibiting distracted driving. It’s up to each state to regulate its licensed drivers as it sees fit.

The Indiana Department of Transportation breaks down distracted driving into three components: (1) cognitive distraction, which takes your mind off the road; (2) visual distraction, which takes your eyes off the road; and (3) manual distraction, which takes your hands off the wheel. The Illinois State Police offers tips to drivers to avoid driving distractions, including pulling over to the side of the road to tend to children or to use the phone for calls, texts, or email.

Both Indiana and Illinois have passed distracted driving laws, and law enforcement in both states is well aware and on the look out for distracted drivers.

From the Illinois State Police and the Illinois Department of Transportation:

  • In Illinois, more than 6,000 crashes occurred from 2009 to 2013 in which some form of driver distraction involving a cell phone was cited by police. Of those, 33 were fatal.
  • In 2013, cell phone distractions were a cause of nearly 1,400 crashes in Illinois.
  • Drivers using hand-held phones are four times more likely to get into an accident causing injuries.

The risk exists for all of us — and it’s growing. Serious accidents and severe crashes are going to happen in the future where lives are devastated because of a driver who was distracted for only a moment by a hands-free phone conversation or a check of screen for his Google Map.

Drivers in Indiana and Illinois need to know that they are in serious and growing danger of being hit by a distracted driver as they drive their cars, trucks, minivans, or SUVs. It’s vital that we all drive defensively, and work hard to promote and educate others about the need to drive aware and avoid the risks of distractions while driving.

Let’s be careful out there!

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