Illinois is again considering becoming one of the handful of states that ban the use of hand-held cell phones while operating a motor vehicle. The majority of states, including Illinois, already ban texting while driving as a behavior associated with distracted driving accidents. A proposal to ban hand-held cell phone use was defeated in Senate last year. A new proposal was endorsed by a state House committee earlier this month. If the bill is passed by the full House, it will go to the state Senate where a similar bill was defeated last year.
The sponsor of the legislation indicated that the use of a hand-held cell phone increases a driver's risk of getting into an accident by 800 percent. Distracted driving is a factor in roughly 10 percent of all fatal crashes. Cell phone use of one kind or another is a noteworthy contributor to the total number of distracted driving accidents. It is not clear whether hands-free devices are significantly safer to use while driving that hand-held devices.
At least one opponent of the measure suggested that the hardship placed on people to acquire a hands-free alternative was enough to make the legislation unacceptable. Another opponent simply stated that allowing law enforcement to stop drivers who were otherwise driving safely simply because they had a cell phone in their hands was "too much government." That argument touches on one of the primary reasons cited in support of such measures: that law enforcement officers can't realistically stop people from texting and driving because it is impossible to know whether a driver is dialing a number or sending a text.
Distracted driving is hazardous. It costs thousands of Americans their lives every year. It is important to carefully consider any method by which transportation can be made safer for everyone.
Source: Herald Review, "House committee OKs ban on driving with cellphone," by L.E. Hlavach, 21 February 2013