Letter to editor: Help stop distracted driving

“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 cell phone while driving. 

Statistics confirm what many motorists 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 cell phone was cited by police, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.  Of those, 30 were fatal.

These are preventable tragedies.

Gov. Pat Quinn along with Secretary of State Jesse White are leading efforts to help save lives by cracking down on distracted driving. This past summer, Quinn signed into law a ban on the use of hand-held cell phones 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. Drivers could pay $150 for repeat offenses and may eventually have their license suspended.  Drivers who cause fatal crashes while using a hand-held electronic device could serve 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 ban that took effect this year 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. 

For details about how to participate, visit www.dropitanddriveillinois.com. 

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

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