City of Chicago, State of Illinois lead fight against car accidents caused by cell phones

With hand-held cell-phone use by drivers banned in Chicago since 2005 and a law awaiting the signature of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, our area is among the nation’s leaders in combating distracted drivers, according to a New York Times article that examines the difficulty states are having in passing such legislation.

The Chicago car accident lawyers at Abels & Annes continue to monitor the impact of cell-phone use and distracted driving on Chicago car accidents and personal injury and wrongful death cases.

This year, state legislators introduced about 170 bills to address distracted driving, but passed fewer than 10.

Chicago passed a ban on hand-held cell phones in 2005 and currently issues about 700 tickets a month. The cost of the fine increase from $75 to $100 earlier this year.

And last month we blogged about two laws awaiting the governor’s signature that will make it illegal to read, compose or send electronic messages while driving or to use a cell phone while driving in a school or construction zone.

“With the increased use of technological devices, distracted driving has become a serious problem in our state and in the nation,” said Secretary of State Jesse White, who pushed for the restrictions. “No driver has any business text messaging while they are driving.”

Studies show drivers continue to identify cell-phone use as a serious problem behind the wheel — just not with them.

A survey of 1,506 people last year by Nationwide Mutual Insurance found, 81 percent of cellphone owners acknowledged that they talk on phones while driving. Yet 98 percent considered themselves safe drivers even though nearly half claimed they had been hit or nearly hit by a driver talking on a phone.

“When we ask people to identify the most dangerous distraction on the highway today, about half – correctly – identify cellphones,” said Bill Windsor, associate vice president for safety at Nationwide. “But they think others are dangerous, not themselves.”

A 2003 Harvard study estimated that cellphone distractions caused 2,600 traffic deaths every year, and 330,000 accidents that result in moderate or severe injuries. Yet the use of cell phones has skyrocketed since then and the advent of text messaging is even more dangerous behind the wheel. From 1995 to 2008, the number of wireless subscribers in the United States increased eightfold, to 270 million, and minutes talked rose 58-fold, according to The Times article.

Five states and the District of Columbia require drivers who talk on cellphones to use hands-free devices. A number of cities, like Chicago, have done the same. However, research shows that using headsets can be as dangerous as holding a phone because the conversation distracts drivers from focusing on the road, according to The Times.

Fourteen states have passed measures to ban texting while driving.

While almost all of us are guilty of driving and talking on the phone, the dangers are very real and Chicago personal injury and wrongful death lawyers continue to see cases where serious and fatal accidents were caused by distracted drivers talking on the phone.

If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in car accident, call the Chicago car accident attorneys at Abels & Annes for a free consultation.

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