Texting while driving creates distracted drivers. Distracted drivers are dangerous drivers. Nowadays cellphones allow cellphone users to do much more than send text messages and place phone calls. As the functionality of cellphones increases, so do the number of distractions and distracted drivers.
The Center for Disease Control recognizes three main types of distractions while driving:
- Visual Distractions, such as taking your eyes off of the road;
- Manual Distractions, such as taking your hands off the wheel; and
- Cognitive Distractions, such as taking your mind off of driving. (CDC)
Sending a text message, or otherwise using a cellphone while driving causes all of the main types of distractions recognized by the CDC.
In 2015, 391,000 people were injured due to distracted driving (NHTSA). And 14% of fatal crashes involve cell phones. (III) This number is up by almost 10% over 2011. Distracted drivers caused nearly 1 in 5 car crashes in which someone was injured in 2013, according to the CDC.
Texting while driving creates a major safety concern. When driving 55 miles per hour, the average text message takes a driver’s eyes off of the road for a distance greater than a football field, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Illinois lawmakers expressly recognize the danger associated with distracted driving. Operating a cell phone while driving is a crime in Illinois. Illinois law states, in pertinent part:
(a) As used in this Section:
“Electronic communication device” means an electronic device, including but not limited to a hand-held wireless telephone, hand-held personal digital assistant, or a portable or mobile computer, but does not include a global positioning system or navigation system or a device that is physically or electronically integrated into the motor vehicle.
(b) A person may not operate a motor vehicle on a roadway while using an electronic communication device.
(b-5) A person commits aggravated use of an electronic communication device when he or she violates subsection (b) and in committing the violation he or she was involved in a motor vehicle accident that results in great bodily harm, permanent disability, disfigurement, or death to another and the violation was a proximate cause of the injury or death.
(c) A second or subsequent violation of this Section is an offense against traffic regulations governing the movement of vehicles. A person who violates this Section shall be fined a maximum of $75 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense, $125 for a third offense, and $150 for a fourth or subsequent offense. 625 ILCS 5/12-610.2 (West 2016).
Texting while driving is not only a violation of criminal law. Texting while driving is also a violation of a driver’s civil duty to other drivers on the roadway. If a driver causes an accident, because that driver is operating a cell phone, and the accident injures another, the driver will be held liable in civil court for money damages to compensate the injured person.
With widely popular cellphone games like Pokémon Go, the number of distracted drivers is steadily increasing. A safe driver cannot be expected to account for the negligence of a distracted driver. Instead, the problem of distracted drivers must be addressed. To stop this problem, individuals operating a cellphone while driving must be held accountable both criminally and in civil court.