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Drop It and Drive: A Campaign to End Distracted Driving

Public officials mobilize to get you to put down your cell phone when you're behind the wheel. An open letter to the public.

Distracted driving fines are much higher this year thanks to a change in Illinois law. | Credit: Patch.com
Distracted driving fines are much higher this year thanks to a change in Illinois law. | Credit: Patch.com

“Drop it and drive.”  

Chances are, at some point, you’ve uttered a phrase like that after witnessing someone on the road talking, texting or surfing the Web on their cellphone while driving. 

Statistics confirm what most drivers know, but many continue to ignore: distracted driving is dangerous and deadly.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, drivers using hand-held phones are four times more likely to get into an accident causing injuries. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that more than 3,300 fatalities nationwide – about 10 percent of all traffic deaths – occur as a result of distracted driving.

And, in Illinois, nearly 6,000 crashes occurred from 2008 to 2012 in which some form of driver distraction involving a cellphone was cited by police, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. Of those, 30 were fatal.

These are preventable tragedies.

Gov. Pat Quinn and Secretary of State Jesse White are leading efforts to help save lives by cracking down on distracted driving. This past summer, Gov. Quinn signed into law a ban on the use of hand-held cellphones while driving in Illinois and increased penalties where use of an electronic device leads to a crash resulting in serious injuries.

The new state law prohibits motorists from talking on all but hands-free mobile phones while driving. Get caught talking, texting or surfing the Web while driving? Under the new law, fines start at $75 for drivers caught using a hand-held cellphone while driving. Drivers could pay $150 for repeat offenses and may eventually have their driver’s license suspended. Drivers who cause fatal crashes while using a hand-held electronic device could wind up serving up to three years in prison.

The tragic results caused by the growing epidemic of distracted driving are why we have come together to launch a new public awareness campaign. Our goal is to educate drivers about the hand-held cellphone ban that took effect Jan. 1, 2014, and remind motorists that if they drive with a phone in one hand, they can expect a ticket in the other.

We are doing our part to spread the word.  But, drivers need to do their part, as well, by making the decision to focus 100 percent on driving every trip, every time.  Together, we can reduce the number of cellphone-related crashes on Illinois roadways. 

For more information about how to participate this important campaign, please visit www.dropitanddriveillinois.com.

Signed,

Hiram Grau, director, Illinois State Police

Kristi Lafleur, executive director, Illinois Tollway

Ann. L. Schneider, secretary, Illinois Department of Transportation

Jesse White, Illinois Secretary of State

Brad Roeber, regional president, AAA Chicago

Kimberly O'Brien February 14, 2014 at 04:14 PM
@Independence666: The ban on cell phone use while driving is not foolish. Multiple scientific studies have demonstrated the cognitive effects of talking on a mobile phone or texting while driving. See, e.g., https://www.apa.org/research/action/drive.aspx. If you want to see something truly heartbreaking and haunting, watch Werner Herzog’s powerful documentary on the dangers of texting while driving: http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/08/16/212337606/herzog-plumbs-guilt-and-loss-wrought-by-texting-and-driving. P.S. Eating while driving? That can wait too.
Ty Conderoga February 14, 2014 at 05:08 PM
* Note: This law does NOT apply to law enforcement. And we all know what great drivers they are.
Jordan S. Zoot February 14, 2014 at 05:19 PM
The correct answer is to make texting or cellphone use fully subject to the distracted driving penalties...getting caught texting or on a cellphone should FULLY COUNT THE SAME WAY THAT A DUI DOES. Same fines, penalties and loss of license. If you kill someone it makes no difference if you are drinking, talking on a cellphone or putting make up on. Make the second offense a MANDATORY three years in prison.
Channing Grant February 14, 2014 at 07:29 PM
I will continue using my smartphone as I drive. This is a big overreach by the law. If I get a ticket I will pay it on my phone as I drive off from the cop. Stupid law.
Jim Court February 14, 2014 at 07:30 PM
Why doesn't it apply to law enforcement? I see many Police continuing to talk.
Ty Conderoga February 14, 2014 at 11:40 PM
This Section does not apply to: (1) a law enforcement officer or operator of an emergency vehicle while performing his or her official duties; (2) a driver using an electronic communication device for the sole purpose of reporting an emergency situation and continued communication with emergency personnel during the emergency situation; (3) a driver using an electronic communication device in hands-free or voice-operated mode, which may include the use of a headset; (4) a driver of a commercial motor vehicle reading a message displayed on a permanently installed communication device designed for a commercial motor vehicle with a screen that does not exceed 10 inches tall by 10 inches wide in size; (5) a driver using an electronic communication device while parked on the shoulder of a roadway; or (6) a driver using an electronic communication device when the vehicle is stopped due to normal traffic being obstructed and the driver has the motor vehicle transmission in neutral or park; . (7) a driver using two-way or citizens band radio services; (8) a driver using two-way mobile radio transmitters or receivers for licensees of the Federal Communications Commission in the amateur radio service; (9) a driver using an electronic communication device by pressing a single button to initiate or terminate a voice communication; or (10) a driver using an electronic communication device capable of performing multiple functions, other than a hand-held wireless telephone or hand-held personal digital assistant (for example, a fleet management system, dispatching device, citizens band radio, or music player) for a purpose that is not otherwise prohibited by this Section.
CLM February 15, 2014 at 08:02 AM
As a driver of a commercial vehicle, I don't generally answer my phone as I drive unless I see the name on the screen as a client I must speak with imminently. But I also have no qualms about checking a text message at a red light, while waiting for a train at the crossing gates, etc. I do not approve of this law as it is just another permission granted for a cop to look into my vehicle. I am a responsible adult who mostly does pull over when conducting cellphone business but for the rare occasion where I do take or make a call, and as a commercial driver there is ample reason to do so, I don't want my chops busted for doing my job. I also do blame touchscreen phones though, versus phones with buttons on them. With button phones I could hit the buttons and know what I was typing. With touchscreen phones I hit every letter EXCEPT the one I need, necessitating many corrections making sending a text take at least three times as long and requiring that much more attention to be paid to the process. Even the phones with the speaker function for texting makes tons of mistakes that need correction before sending. Button QWERTY keyboard phones were much better for texting. Overall though, I think reactionary laws like these get passed by politicians who want to be seen as "doing something" without anticipating all the scenarios where the law could actually be a hinderance or burdensome. But the people just seem to love more restrictions put on their personal freedom because they want to feel "safe". Newsflash: More laws do not equal a safer life! Being aware of your surroundings & driving defensively (anyone remember that one?) is how you stay safe. And for the majority of drivers who do know how to drive & talk on a phone at the same time, leave us the heck alone!
Anola Stowick February 15, 2014 at 08:51 AM
The law is useless unless the police enforce it. I see a dozen drivers a day still talking on their cell phones. When are police going to start fining these morons.
Mongo February 15, 2014 at 08:57 AM
You can't regulate stupid! Are you people dreaming ? This law will do nothing towards creating a more safe driving environment. This isn't about safety, its about creating revenue. There are tens of thousands of laws on the books right now that people pay no attention to at all. If talking on a cell phone is such a distraction then talking on a hands free cell phone will also be a distraction. Lets just outlaw everything you can do in a car but driving! Better yet, lets just regulate stupid people!
Willie Wilmette February 15, 2014 at 09:53 AM
The FCC requires that all cellphones be able to be located within within 300 meters. How hard would it be for the FCC to require that all cellphones traveling over 5 mph to be turned off? That said, driving should be discouraged or banned soon. We should all be in self driving cars. that would stop 6 million accidents per year! Over 30,000 lives would be saved, that is way more than twice the number of people would are shot & killed by someone else.
Stuart Pearson` February 15, 2014 at 12:11 PM
To Channing Grant: Your attitude is appalling. My Wife was nearly T-Boned yesterday by someone talking on their Phone. Further. not only was she almost hit the incident took place in a School Zone as the Students were leaving School. What's so important that you feel a need to speak with someone while operating a Motor Vehicle? Does this in someway make you feel important? Perhaps you need to look more deeply into yourself for the answer. In the meantime stay out of my way.
Ken February 15, 2014 at 05:24 PM
Use the red light cameras, and just browse each passer-by. The time spent would easily be paid for, as a little picture arrives in the mail with a person talking about how many shots Jr. took and made in the game while they are on their way to the 3rd NATIONAL tournament of the weekend.
ROGER GORLICKI February 15, 2014 at 07:56 PM
I'm just waiting for those who are so adamant against this law to have a family member maimed or killed by someone on the phone either talking or texting and then say "why" him or her.
Jordan S. Zoot February 15, 2014 at 09:18 PM
Once again use the same penalties as DUI its the same damn thing.
Tom February 16, 2014 at 12:44 AM
Ill stop using my phone when the cops stop using theirs. Every cop I see is on his/her cell phone. Im sure they're not all solving the worlds crimes while waiting to catch a speeder on 95th
Bob Laird February 16, 2014 at 01:44 AM
new law. person in left turn lane gets arrow is on phone and doesn't go we can just shoot them.
Stuart Pearson` February 16, 2014 at 06:34 AM
Hi Bob, and all: IF what you say about People in Left Turn Lanes Talking, or Texting and then not Turning on the Green Arrow then how about one such person I encountered recently? Said person did not pull far enough forward in said lane to activate the Left Turn Signal. I "BEEPED" once and got a "What's Up With You" kinda look, and they returned to using their Phone. Sure enough the Left Turn Arrow didn't come on, and the Traffic volume was such that only the Cell Phone user got to go through the intersection.
Local February 16, 2014 at 12:13 PM
Hey "channing grant". You are a complete moron and with that attitude and the complete lack of common sense you display, you will eventually be one of the idiots that hurt or kill someone. I only hope it's your own family member who is lucky enough to be the victim of you're stupidity.
Granny Gruntz February 16, 2014 at 03:49 PM
*Are people today so lacking "inner resources" that they must CONSTANTLY be talking to someone somewhere? *AND DO NOT TELL ME THAT DRIVERS ARE NOT DISTRACTED WHEN USING A CELL PHONE! *I do NOT have any kind of cell phone! *My car radio has long since ceased to work! *I can be distracted by just "thinking" about "something" as I drive! *Did I forget
Granny Gruntz February 16, 2014 at 04:13 PM
*WHOOPS! *Must have hit something unintentionally...*Watching the Olympics as I am composing this message - HOW EASILY IS ONE DISTRACTED!! *TO CONTINUE - *Did I forget to stop at Walgreen's to pick up a prescription? *Did I forget to close the garage door when I left home? *Watch gas prices as I go by gas stations? *Did I turn off the gas stove before I left home? *ETC., ETC., ETC. *I have turned onto the wrong street or into the wrong store more than once JUST BECAUSE IS WAS "THINKING" about other things as I was driving! *It is that easy! *AND TALKING/TEXTING ON ANY FORM OF CELL PHONE WHILE DRIVING IS NOT DISTRACTING!???
Jordan S. Zoot February 16, 2014 at 04:24 PM
Granny......we think you would benefit from a tabasco enema that would distract you for sure.
CLM February 17, 2014 at 08:14 AM
So it seems drivers like Granny are the drivers this law aims to curb - except it will not target her at all because she is not holding a "device" in her hands. And she is likely the most dangerous driver of all if she can be that easily distracted. But that point just goes to highlight the stupidity & ineffectiveness of this law. You can't legislate competence.
Jordan S. Zoot February 17, 2014 at 09:16 AM
That is why the "distracted driving" component of the law should be enforced just like DUI. If you are doing something that interferes with operating a motor vehicle they should come down on you just like you were intoxed..and throw the book at you ....suspension, fines, etc. It sure beats watching one of these miscreants kill someone.
Stu Pidasso February 17, 2014 at 01:34 PM
"distracted driving" way too subjective... I know people who are distracted while they are just standing there!! let alone driving.. The streets would be nearly empty if having any of the Big pharma drugs in your system while driving would be grounds to be considered " distracted driving". I would be willing to bet right now, without researching any numbers that more than HALF of this country who are old enough to drive would be considered under the influence... (I'm talking Pain killers, SSRI's, blood pressure meds, etc.) at any given time. However, these items are rarely enforced unless their is an accident, fatality, etc. The current laws would have to be rewritten, I do not see that happening,,, $$$$
Granny Gruntz February 18, 2014 at 01:06 PM
*AND YOUR POINT IS??? Jordan S. Zoot February 16, 2014 at 04:24 PM Granny......we think you would benefit from a tabasco enema that would distract you for sure.
Jordan S. Zoot February 18, 2014 at 01:28 PM
There was NO particular point which is precisely the same as the content of your post.
Granny Gruntz February 18, 2014 at 02:05 PM
CLM: *May I commend you that none of the following have NEVER applied to you! *ONE cannot be distracted: *While reading a newspaper while on the x-way OR any road or street? *While applying makeup when driving? *While putting on pantyhose while driving? **AND Granny has sure seen ALL of the above! *While reaching for a cigarette lighter to light a cigarette OR flick an ash in the ashtray? *While tuning the radio? *While inserting a CD in the dashboard player? *While reaching for a coffee cup, water, a drink in the cup holder? *While reaching around for an object in the back seat? *While turning to reprimand/yell at a child in the back seat? *While talking to a passenger in front or back seat? *While trying to read road/street signs in an unfamiliar area? *While reading a road map? *AND - YOU can HONESTLY STATE that your eyes are CONSTANTLY on the road?, your mind is CONSTANTLY on your driving?, you NEVER think about ANYTHING other than paying attention and focusing on your driving? *THEN, I would commend you, CLM! *WHEE-O-ROSCO! *Diogenes can blow out his light! BECAUSE Diogenes has FINALLY found an honest person!!! *Although I betcha, CLM, you are a man! *One more *question, CLM, do YOU come to a COMPLETE, DEAD STOP at a stop sign? *Look in ALL directions before proceeding? *You do know, don’t you, that a ROLLING STOP IS ILLEGAL! *Of course you do! *YOU are a SAFE driver *YOU are NEVER distracted by ANYTHING! *KUDOS TO YOU, CLM!
Debro Mcgown February 22, 2014 at 08:18 PM
I see people talking & driving on a daily basis since law has went into effect. Nothing is being done though. What can be SO important that you can't wait to make/receive call 'til after your commute?
Stu Pidasso February 23, 2014 at 10:16 AM
I love it when you see these "Women applying makeup and eyeliner while driving!! Would love to say " Honey, there is'nt enough makeup to make you look ptretty!!! Now quit endangering others!!
ed breyer March 17, 2014 at 11:17 PM
Willie Wilmette: Your idea of blocking all cell phones when they are moving is not well thought out. It would prevent passengers in cars and trains from using their phones to text as well. If you witness a crime and want to call the police while following the perpetrator, you couldn't do it if the phone ceases to function because it senses it is moving and shuts off. Please take a few seconds to think through the implications of your proposals.

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