Distracted drivers are causing serious and fatal motor vehicle accidents here in Indiana and Illinois. Our part of the country is far from immune to this national epidemic.
Unfortunately, distracted driving remains a serious threat to drivers as well as pedestrians here in our area. This is true despite the fact that both Indiana and Illinois have statutes that criminalize some forms of distracted driving.
Indiana Distracted Driving – It’s a Crime since 2011
The Indiana Department of Labor breaks distracted driving down into three types or categories:
- Cognitive distraction, which takes your mind off the road;
- Visual distraction, which takes your eyes off the road; and
- Manual distraction, which takes your hands off the steering wheel while you are operating a motor vehicle.
The Indiana State Police collect and organize data on distracted driving accidents in the state’s Automated Reporting Information Exchange System (ARIES). According to the Indiana’s research, texting-while-driving drivers are 23 times more likely to cause an accident. Moreover, distracted drivers now cause more motor vehicle accidents than drunk drivers.
Texting while driving is considered by many experts to be the most dangerous form of distracted driving.
Accordingly, Indiana passed a law in July 2011 that makes it illegal to “type, transmit, or read e-mail or text messages on a communications device while driving.”
Texting while driving is illegal in Indiana. Hands-free devices (like Bluetooth, headsets, or speakerphones) are acceptable for Indiana drivers over the age of 18 years.
Hands-free and handheld communications devices are banned for any Hoosier driver under the age of 18 years in Indiana (with a 911 exception).
The penalty for violating this criminal statute is a fine of up to $500.00.
Illinois Distracted Driving – It’s a Crime since 2014
The Illinois State Police monitor distracted driving statistics in Illinois. The State Police warn that using a cell phone while driving increases the likelihood of a traffic accident by 400%.
This state agency began enforcing the Illinois distracted driving law on its January 1, 2014, effective date. Under this statute, it is illegal in the State of Illinois to use hand-held cellphones, texting or using other electronic communications while operating a motor vehicle.
Texting while driving is against the law in Illinois.
However, in Illinois, it is legal to communicate using a hands-free device (like Bluetooth, headsets, or speakerphones) if you are over the age of 18 years.
The Illinois State Police warn that even if hands-free is legal, it’s still dangerous. The troopers recommend that anyone needing to communicate by phone pull out of traffic and off the road before making that call. Hands-free isn’t safe.
If someone is caught by police violating the Illinois distracted driving law, they face a traffic citation and a minimum fine of $75 (which escalates in certain areas, like a school zone).
For more on distracted driving in our part of the country, check out our earlier post, “10 Surprising Facts About Distracted Driving in Indiana and Illinois.”
How Dangerous is the Distracted Driving Epidemic Today?
According to a recent AT&T study, done as part of its “It Can Wait” campaign against distracted driving, drivers are ignoring the warnings about the real danger of using their phones while driving a motor vehicle.
70% of drivers use their smartphones while driving;
62% of drivers make sure to keep their phone handy while they are driving;
30% of drivers surf the web while driving; and
40% of drivers check social media (Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat) while driving.
Sadly, people will be seriously injured and killed in motor vehicle accidents caused by a distracted driver. These tragedies will involve all sorts of drivers, from teen drivers to commercial truck drivers. There’s no one specific driving group that can be targeted here.
For more, see:
- Distracted Driving Status Report Released: Dangers Abound from Driver Distractions;
- Developments in Fight against Distracted Driving Accidents;
- How Crazy is Distracted Driving? Drivers Are Surfing, Chatting, and Taking Selfies While Driving;
- Phones in The Car: Drivers Distracted Even If Not Using The Phone, Just Able to See It.
Accident Claims Involving Distracted Drivers: Getting Justice for Distracted Driving Victims
After an accident has happened, justice is sought for the accident victim and his family. Distracted driving is not always easy to prove. See, “Distracted Driving Accidents: How Can Victims Prove that a Distracted Driver Caused the Crash?”
The difficulty in many of these fatal accident cases is proving that the driver who caused the crash did so because he or she was driving distracted.
There will be instances where the driver’s own admission or eyewitness accounts are available to help prove that texting while driving was the cause of a fatal accident. Take, for example, the recent fatal crash down in Texas where a busload of church choir members was struck head-on by a pickup truck on a state highway.
News reports are that the truck driver was not only captured on video by a third party who was on the road behind this pickup truck, but that the truck driver allegedly admitted to that witness at the scene of the accident that he had been texting on his phone at the time of the crash. See, “Witness: Driver in Crash Admitted Texting Before Collision,” by Juan A. Lozano for the Associated Press, published on March 31, 2017 by the Chicago Tribune.
However, most accident cases do not have admissions by the party opponent that they were distracted from driving at the time of the crash. Most distracted drivers are reluctant to face the reality that their texting, or tweeting, or checking their music or eating their fast food burger, meant that they caused a crash in which someone died. See, “Distracted Driving Cause of Accidents: Proving Fault in a Car Crash.”
Distracted driving is difficult to establish in evidence for the accident victim. (Just as it is difficult for police to monitor and stop before a crash happens.) Distractions are not easily seen outside the vehicle and they are not readily apparent at the accident site (as other causes can be, like drunk driving).
Support for Distracted Driving Awareness Month
Once again, we provide our support for the national effort to educate and increase public awareness of the dangers of distracted driving. This is a serious and shocking problem of epidemic proportions that needs to be stopped.
Here in Indiana and Illinois, we face special kinds of dangers and risks while driving on our roadways. Things like severe weather and high volume commercial truck traffic here in the Crossroads of America. Drivers distracted from the task of operating their motor vehicle increase the danger to all of us of a fatal motor vehicle accident.
It’s time to end Distracted Driving Epidemic. Let’s be careful out there!