Illinois lawmakers consider banning handheld cellphone use for drivers

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, distraction is a factor in approximately one in five car crashes that result in injury. Most distraction related crashes are completely preventable, and Illinois lawmakers have already taken steps to reduce the number of injuries and deaths caused by electronic distraction behind the wheel. But could more be done?

Currently, all drivers in Illinois are prohibited from texting, and cellphone use is banned completely in school zones and highway construction zones. Yet, there is evidence that even just talking on the phone behind the wheel can be dangerous. If ultimately passed, a new measure in the Illinois Senate could prohibit all handheld cellphone use by drivers.

Texting major danger for drivers, but talking on a cellphone also distracting

A Virginia Tech study commissioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that mobile electronic devices are the number one source of driver distraction. Texting behind the wheel is a particularly dangerous use of a wireless device behind the wheel, because it involves all three major forms of distraction: cognitive (taking your mind off the road), manual (taking your hands off the wheel) and visual (looking away from the road).

Talking on a handheld cellphone only involves two of the major types of distraction, cognitive and manual. But, it can still be deadly. One study from the University of Utah found that drivers talking on a cellphone had reaction times comparable to those of drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of .08.

So far, 10 states and the District of Columbia prohibit drivers from talking on or otherwise using handheld cellphones. Illinois may soon be joining them. On April 30, an Illinois Senate Committee voted by a strong majority to recommend passage of a new bill that would ban handheld cellphones for all drivers.

In March, the measure, House Bill 1247, passed in the Illinois House. If it is approved by the Senate, House Bill 1247 will move to the governor's desk. A number of Illinois municipalities - including Chicago - have already enacted their own laws against handheld cellphone use by drivers.

Drivers who cause a crash can already be held responsible for damages

Even without House Bill 1247 there are still consequences of distracted driving. Any driver who causes an accident by being inattentive can be held responsible by crash victims, whether the particular distraction involved was specifically prohibited by law or not. The driver at fault for a crash, or his or her insurer, can be forced to pay for medical bills, wages lost due to an inability to work, pain and suffering, and other resulting damages.

If House Bill 1247 becomes law, it could help make Illinois roads safer. But even with a new handheld cellphone ban, some drivers will flout the law, as is the case with the current law that bans texting behind the wheel. When a distracted driver causes a crash, the after the fact remedy of monetary damages can help set things right. Monetary compensation is an imperfect solution to the injuries and deaths caused by distracted drivers - but it is the best solution available. If you or a family member has been harmed by a distracted driver, call an Illinois personal injury lawyer today and get the money you deserve.