According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, beginning on January 1, 2014, drivers throughout the state of Illinois will be banned from using a handheld device behind the wheel. The main impetus behind the legislation is to reduce the number of accidents caused by distracted drivers. It is believed that too many of these kinds of accidents could have easily been prevented. Victims injured in a car accident involving a distracted driver can suffer serious, life-threatening injuries. In many cases, the innocent victim would be entitled to receive compensation for any resulting injuries and losses. If you or someone you know have been injured in a car accident involving a negligent driver, it is important to contact a local injury attorney as soon as possible to determine your potential rights to a recovery.
Distracted driving has become more prevalent with the increasing use of “smartphones” and other handheld devices. According to Pew Internet, as of May 2013, 91% of adults have a cell phone, while 56% have a smartphone. The statistics further indicate that 67% of cell owners check their phone for calls, messages, or alerts — even when they don’t notice their phone vibrating or ringing. This is alarming data. These numbers translate to an obvious fact: many people consult their phone while driving, be it to text, check a social media site, or simply to make a phone call. But the distraction can be deadly.
A website called Stoptextsstopwrecks.org, reports that a texting driver is 23 times more likely to get into a car accident than a non-texting driver. It should come as no surprise that Illinois will now join the dozen other states that have issued a ban on handheld cell phone use while driving. The state already has a no texting while driving ban in place. Violators of the new law will be issued a $75 fine for a first offense, and repeat offenders could pay $150 for additional violations, and possibly receive a moving violation on the license. Drivers who receive three moving violations in one year could have their license suspended. The new law allows drivers to use a hands-free device to make phone calls.
In somewhat of a “companion” piece of legislation, the Governor also signed into law a bill that will increase penalties for those drivers who injure or kill others in accidents caused by the use of a cell phone or other electronic device. Distracted drivers who injure other motorists could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, with fines up to $2,500 and less than a year of jail time. A driver involved in a fatal accident could face a Class 4 felony charge, with fines up to $25,000 and up to three years of jail time.
Victims of distracted driving accidents sustain a wide range of injuries, including mild cuts and scrapes, broken bones, traumatic head injuries, and even death. It is hoped that these two laws will thwart the number of accidents caused by distracted drivers. For anyone involved in such an accident, you are encouraged to contact a Chicago injury attorney as quickly as possible to help protect your rights to compensation.