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The Second National Distracted Driving Summit revealed some important and creative ideas to combat the deadly problem of distracted driving in the U.S.
A variety of lawmakers, lobbyists, state and federal officials, law enforcement officers and safe-driving advocates attended the Washington, D.C. summit to share potential solutions to the dangers that distracted drivers create on our nation's roadways. Many Illinois residents trekked east for the event, including attentive-driving advocate Jennifer Smith.
The Deadly Distracted-Driving Problem
Smith, of Oak Park, advocates heightened awareness and tougher laws on distracted driving. Smith's mother was killed by a motorist who ran a red light while talking on his cell phone. After her mother's fatal car accident, Smith discovered the numerous studies and statistics demonstrating that distracted driving skyrockets the chances of a motor vehicle accident.
One such study, by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, found that people who text while driving are 23 times more likely to suffer an accident or a near-crash event. Studies on the dangers of talking on a cell phone while driving have varying statistical conclusions, but many found that those who use cell phones while driving are four times as likely to be involved in a car accident.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) states that 16 percent of all 2009 collisions were caused by distracted driving, accounting for 5,474 deaths. Distracted driving includes all of the following activities while behind the wheel:
- Talking or texting on a cell phone
- Eating and drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Changing the music
- Using a GPS
- Watching a video
Distracted Driving Laws in Chicago and Throughout Illinois
Currently, Chicago forbids talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving, and all of Illinois bans texting and internet use while operating a vehicle. Traffic citations are issued to violators, with increasing penalties for any accidents caused by cell phone use. Legal or not, a large population of Windy City motorists continue to multi-task on the roadways.
New Distracted Driving Solutions and What Changes To Expect
The purpose of the summit was to combat distracted driving by allowing people to share their experiences and develop potential solutions. Syracuse Police Department Captain Shannon Trice shared his department's efforts in catching those violating New York cell phone use laws. Trice explained that the best combatant for distracted driving enforcement is simple: more police officer eyes on drivers and enabling swift punishment for offenders.
Other ideas discussed included the development of futuristic technology, such as applications disabling cell phones when vehicles are in motion and car technology that warns motorists of impending collisions.
New national laws will likely pass to penalize states who allow phone-related distracted driving. Within the next two years, all of Illinois will probably ban hand-held cell phone use while driving. Given the nature of the distracted driving debate, it is likely that the future may hold a ban of all cell phone use while driving.
Regardless of distracted driving laws in Illinois, motorists who injure or kill people because of distracted driving are responsible for compensating their victims. If you or a loved one is seriously injured by an irresponsible driver, it is crucial to promptly contact an experienced personal injury attorney. A lawyer can obtain evidence, such as cell phone records, to demonstrate the other party's negligence as the cause of your suffering.