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McHenry County traffic defense lawyerBy now, we have all seen and heard the campaigns encouraging us to put our phones down while driving. Over the last few years, safety groups and even the cell service carriers themselves have consistently reminded drivers to stop texting while driving. Unfortunately, the public does not seem to be heeding these warnings. A law that was passed last year, however, made it possible for Illinois drivers to lose their driving privileges for illegally using their phones while driving. If you are a person who struggles to put your phone down behind the wheel, you should know the potential risks of such behavior.

Disappointing Texting and Driving Statistics

State Farm, an insurance industry leader, recently conducted a survey to gauge attitudes among the general public about using a cell phone while driving. The results of the survey suggested that most people realize the dangers, but far too many drivers use their phones anyway. Over 80 percent of respondents reported that they knew that using a handheld cell phone to make or receive calls was dangerous, but fully one-half of respondents acknowledged they used a handheld device for calls while driving. Nearly all of the survey’s participants—95 percent—said they knew that texting while driving was dangerous and distracting, but more than one-third—35 percent—said they text in spite of the dangers.

In the state of Illinois, it is and has been against the law to use a cell phone or another electronic device to send and receive messages, use apps, and access internet sites while driving. Talking on a cell phone without using a speakerphone or a hands-free function is also illegal. The penalty for a first-time violation is a fine of $75, and a second offense will result in a fine of $100. The fine increases to $125 for a third violation, and a fourth or subsequent offense is punishable by a fine of $150.

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 Distracted Truck Drivers Can Cause Serious CrashesGetting into an accident with a commercial truck can result in devastating injuries to the occupants of a smaller passenger vehicle. Drivers are taught to be cautious around trucks, giving them ample space and being aware of their blind spots. However, an error by the truck driver can create a dangerous situation that other drivers are unable to avoid. Distracted driving is one of the primary causes of driver error in truck accidents. You may be able to receive personal injury compensation if you can prove that a truck driver was distracted leading up to your accident.

How Do Truck Drivers Get Distracted?

Commercial truck drivers are often fighting fatigue and boredom during the long hours they spend on the road. The driver may try to break the monotony by finding other activities to do while driving, such as using their phones or eating food. There are several ways that this can impair their driving ability:

  • Holding the object means at least one of their hands is not on the wheel.
  • They may be looking at the object when they should be watching the road.
  • If they drop the object, their impulse may be to reach for it, further taking their attention away from the road.
  • Even if their eyes are on the road, the activity may be mentally distracting.

Both federal and state laws make it illegal for truck drivers to use a cell phone while driving unless it is with a hands-free device. However, some drivers still do not follow the rules, which sometimes leads to an accident. 

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Why Is It Difficult to Resist Distracted Driving?Distracted driving is a hazard that does not seem to be going away, as people continue to be attached to their digital devices at all times. Diverting your attention from the road can cause an accident that results in injuries to yourself or someone else. According to one traffic accident study, nine people die and more than 1,000 people are injured every day in incidents involving distracted driving. As easy as it is to say that you should ignore everything other than your driving, drivers have a difficult time putting that into practice. Why do people allow themselves to be distracted while driving when they know it is dangerous? There are several possible explanations:

  1. The Fallacy of Multitasking: People have become used to constantly checking their phones while performing other tasks, such as working or watching television. You may think of this as multitasking because you are doing two activities at once. However, dividing your attention makes you less effective at both tasks. Looking away from your work for a few seconds to check a text message may do no harm because you are able to stop your work and start again. Looking away for a few seconds while you are driving is dangerous because your driving conditions could change at any moment.
  2. Nagging Alerts: You cannot help becoming momentarily distracted when you hear an alert for an incoming message or call. Answering that message or call will further distract you and increase the risk that you may be involved in an accident. Despite the danger, drivers are often overcome with an urge to know who is trying to contact them. You may be expecting an important call or to hear back from someone you have messaged. You may be worried that the call is about an emergency or an opportunity that will disappear if you do not respond immediately. If you think the message is that important, you should safely pull over in order to check it.
  3. False Safety of Hands-Free Devices: Laws against distracted driving exempt hands-free technology that allows you to answer calls and messages through voice commands or dashboard controls. However, drivers can become cognitively distracted without diverting their eyes or hands from their driving. When you are focusing on a conversation, you are not mentally ready to react to unexpected circumstances that may arise while driving. You are less able to foresee a potential hazard and slower to respond.

Contact a McHenry County Personal Injury Lawyer

Distracted driving can establish negligence in a personal injury case. Another driver may have caused the accident because they were distracted, but you could also share liability for the accident if you were distracted. A Crystal Lake, Illinois, personal injury attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can explain how distracted driving may affect the outcome of your case. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.

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Stricter Distracted Driving Law Could Cause More License SuspensionsIllinois lawmakers are trying to further crack down on distracted driving by changing the state's traffic laws. Starting July 1, 2019, using an electronic communication device while driving will be a moving violation for first-time offenders. Under the current law, this offense is not a moving violation until the second time a driver commits it. This minor change to the traffic law could add up to Illinois more frequently suspending drivers’ licenses because of multiple moving violations.

Consequences

The fines remain the same for using an electronic communications device while driving. The only difference is that they will apply after the first violation instead of the second. They include:

  • $75 for a first offense;
  • $100 for a second offense;
  • $125 for a third offense; and
  • $150 for a fourth or subsequent offense.

You face consequences that are more severe than fines if you commit this violation multiple times. Illinois will suspend your driver’s license if you are ticketed for three moving violations within a year’s time. The change to the law means that your first electronic device offense will count towards that moving violation total instead of being a warning. Illinois assigns points to each moving violation, which it adds up to determine how long your suspension will last. The electronic device violation is 20 points, and committing that same violation three times within a year could result in a three-month license suspension.

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Rideshare Drivers Face Inherent DistractionsDrivers working for rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft have the added responsibility for the safety of their passengers, to go along with all drivers’ responsibility to each other on the road. Because of the distractions involved with the job, safe driving advocates wonder whether rideshare drivers are more likely to be in car crashes. Unfortunately, there are no official records of the number of accidents involving rideshare drivers. Police crash reports do not categorize rideshare vehicles for statistical purposes. Unlike taxi cabs, rideshare vehicles are not obviously marked as a commercial vehicle. Analysis of how rideshare drivers operate suggests that they face increased distractions related to their work.

Focus on Phones

Whereas taxi drivers typically use radio dispatch for communications, rideshare drivers communicate using their phones. Drivers have their phones mounted to their dashboards, with their ridesharing app open. The app is used for accepting jobs, giving directions and contacting potential passengers. The rideshare companies say that they design their apps to minimize distractions. However, there are several unavoidable distractions involved with using a phone while driving:

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