The Illinois House of Representatives has passed a bill to ban the use of handheld cell phones while operating a motor vehicle. The measure is intended to reduce the distracted driving accidents caused by drivers paying attention to their phones, rather than to safe driving. The bill now goes to Governor Pat Quinn. If he signs the bill into law, Illinois will become one of the earliest states to take this step in combating distracted driving.
Many communities in Illinois have already banned the use of handheld cell phones by drivers. Evanston blocked the practice three years ago and has reported a reduction in crashes, including fatal crashes, since the measure took effect. Despite the early success of handheld bans, the bill has many critics. One of the primary concerns is that distracted driving comes in many forms and the bill singles out one. Another concern is that it is not clear that hands-free devices are safer for drivers than handheld devices.
The use of handheld cell phones while operating a motor vehicle is clearly unsafe. Studies have estimated that a driver using a cell phone is up to 400 percent more likely to get into a serious crash than a driver who is not using a cell phone. Safe driving is not compatible with texting, talking, checking email, surfing the web, updating Facebook or checking a Twitter feed. Drivers should be encouraged to put down their phones and concentrate on what matters-driving safely.
The bill calls for violators of the handheld cell phone ban to receive a $75 fine. Subsequent offenses could lead to larger fines. At the very least, it is good that Illinois is taking steps to address a serious problem that causes countless deaths and injuries every year.
Source: Peoria Journal Star, “Illinois House approves ban on cellphones while driving,” by Doug Finke, 28 May 2013