State Troopers riding in Semis in order to catch you texting while driving

From Fox 2 St. Louis:

CHICAGO — You wouldn’t expect to see state police climb into big rigs as they head out on patrol, but the giant trucks are their latest tool in the fight against distracted driving.

The “Trooper in a Truck” program, an initiative between the Illinois State Police and the Illinois Trucking Association, aims to make the roads safer for vehicles of all sizes.

“As we’ve seen in the last 10 years, distracted driving in my opinion has overtaken alcohol,” Master Sgt. Bryan Falat tells WGN.

From their higher vantage point, troopers are able to spot distracted drivers and radio the offending vehicle’s information to waiting patrol cars. They then pull them over and issue a ticket.

More than 20 citations were issued Wednesday alone for cell phone violations, improper lane changes, seat belt faux pas and those following too closely. Troopers say this isn’t about money and tickets, it’s about education and safety. And maybe drivers will follow the rules not knowing who is in that truck driving next to them…

In the year the program has been rolling, troopers have used semi trucks to patrol sections of I-57, I-55, I-70 and I-80, catching drivers doing things they shouldn’t do while behind the wheel. Their goal is more than handing out citations; they hope to change drivers’ daily habits and ingrain the safest way to drive in their brains.

Texting While Driving will become a moving violation next month

From the Daily Herald:

Illinois’ law banning driving and texting is now five years old, and drivers caught violating it will face a stiffer penalty as of July 1.

Scofflaws who text, talk or use any hand-held devices behind the wheel will receive a ticket for a moving violation. Three moving violations in a 12-month period will lead to a license suspension…

To clarify, it’s also illegal to text or talk while holding a device at a stop sign, at a red light or while sitting in traffic.

What if I just take a second to do something with my phone?

Not OK, said Aurora police Sgt. Bill Rowley.

“In the amount of time it takes to simply look down and check a text — if your car is traveling 40 mph — it has already traveled half the length of a football field,” said Rowley, Aurora’s public information officer. That means “if a child runs out on the road, there’s no time to touch your brakes.”

Drivers can pull over on the shoulder, put the car in park and use their devices. Exceptions to the law include reporting an emergency, and if normal traffic is stopped because of an obstruction such as an accident or train — and the car is in park.

Read the entire story here at:  https://www.dailyherald.com/news/20190617/starting-july-1-no-more-free-passes-for-texting-or-holding-your-phone-at-all-and-driving

Penalties may go up for texting and driving in Illinois

From WGEM.com:

There’s a new push in Springfield to cut down on texting and driving. The proposal would increase the penalties for causing a crash while using your phone.

Even though it’s against the law in Illinois to be on your phone and drive, people still do it.

“I’ve seen people text, mostly young people,” said Camp Point, Illinois resident Dave Leezer.

“A lot of times you’ll see them at intersections, looking down at their phones and you can definitely tell they are texting and driving while they’re at the intersections,” said Payson, Illinois resident Janice Huber.

However, a new bill sponsored by Representative Norine Hammond, R- Macomb, would up the penalty for a driver who causes bodily harm to another while distracted.The fine would go from $75 to $1,000, plus a year without a license…

There are some state representatives who think this bill would affect low-income people. making it harder for them to absorb the cost of a $1,000 fine. However, most agreed that the current $75 fine is to low to be a real deterrent for this widespread habit.

The bill now needs a vote on the House floor before it can be reported to the Senate.

IL enacts new laws on texting while driving and “dooring” bicyclists

From WQad8.com:

A new law in Illinois enhances the punishment for texting behind the wheel.

Starting in July 2019, drivers caught using cell phones while driving will not only get fined, but it will count as a moving violation that could lead to license suspension.

The new law signed this week by Gov. Bruce Rauner now makes the first ticket for texting and driving a moving offense. That means it goes on the offender’s record and can lead to a suspension if they commit two other violations in the next year.

And from the Chicago Tribune:

The new law, which goes into effect next July, makes the penalty $75 for a first offense, $100 for a second, $125 for a third and $150 for a fourth or subsequent offense. Under current law, drivers get a warning and no fine the first time.

Distracted driving has been cited as a factor in an increase in traffic deaths nationally over the last three years…

Another bill signed by the governor adds the “Dutch Reach” method of opening car doors to Illinois’ Rules of the Road manual and adds bike safety questions to the state driver’s license exam.

The Dutch Reach encourages drivers and passengers to use the hand farthest from the door to reach across the body to open the door after parallel parking. This prods people in motor vehicles to look back for cyclists and other traffic, and can help prevent sometimes-fatal “dooring” crashes, said the Active Transportation Alliance, a bike, pedestrian and transit user advocacy group. It is called the Dutch Reach because it is taught and used in the Netherlands.

lllinois Department of Transportation data shows dooring crashes on the rise across the state. In 2015, there were more than 300 reported in Chicago, a 50 percent increase from the previous year.

Chicago considering providing officers with Textalyzers

From WGN news:

A new piece of technology called a “textalyzer” debated at Chicago City Hall Thursday would make it possible for officers to scan drivers’ phones after pulling them over. State legislatures in New York and Tennessee are also considering the technology, but so far Chicago is believed to be the first city to discuss it.

The City Council’s Public Safety Committee discussed the growing issue of distracted driving Thursday. According to experts, distracted driving is blamed for the biggest spike in traffic deaths in 50 years. In some studies, as many as 50 percent of teenagers admit to texting or emailing while driving.

Read the entire story here:  http://wgntv.com/2018/01/11/chicago-debates-giving-cops-textalyzers-to-test-drivers-smartphones/

The Tribune’s screed against texting at a red light

The Chicago Tribune’s John Hilkevitch and Lauren Zumbach have a lengthy screed about texting (or looking at your phone) at a red light.  I suppose our state legislature will soon ride this horse into even larger court fines and penalties.

Here is a sample:

…drivers who look at their phones while stopped in traffic are becoming increasingly familiar in Illinois and across the nation. And, according to transportation experts, police officers and researchers, the distracted driving is snarling traffic and causing many crashes, some of them likely deadly.

Illinois bans using phones in traffic in many cases and will crack down on it even more next year.

“If your foot is on the brake pedal, and you are texting, it is a violation” punishable by a fine ranging from $90 to $500 in Chicago, Chicago police Lt. Steve Sesso said. “I’ve seen people texting and putting their makeup on while stopped. There are all sorts of scenarios that you can find.”

Traffic flow disruption occurs when fewer vehicles make it through intersections during each green light, according to police officers who say they often observe more eyes at intersections pointed down than on the road.

Texting while stopped can also spark road rage in drivers delayed by the texting motorists and can lead texting motorists to pull jack-rabbit starts and other erratic maneuvers once they snap out of their reverie, according to Fred Mannering, associate director for research at Purdue University’s Center for Road Safety.

ut another way, it takes 4.6 seconds on average to read or send a text while behind the wheel, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. So in less time than it takes to type “AYTMTB” (shorthand for “And you’re telling me this because”), any one of thousands of “smart” signals in Chicago and the suburbs that react to vehicle volume can change from red to green.

And a slow reaction by a texting driver to start moving — whether the vehicle is first in line or farther back — can mislead these traffic signals into thinking that vehicles on one street have cleared out and it’s time to switch the signal to allow cross traffic to move, said Mannering, a civil engineering professor who studies driver behavior and the cause and effect of traffic accidents.

“If there is as little as a two-second delay between cars, fewer cars make it through on a shortened green phase,” Mannering said. “The traffic signals become what we call ‘gapped out,’ because the detectors in the pavement think the queue has ended and no more traffic needs to get through on the green movement.”…

Besides promoting traffic congestion, texting while stopped in traffic is illegal in Illinois. Exceptions are if the driver is texting to report an emergency, using a hands-free or voice-activated device, parked on the shoulder, or stopped in traffic with the transmission in park (or neutral, for a manual transmission).

Illinois’ cellphone and texting laws are primary laws, meaning a police officer can pull over the driver without having to see another violation. Seventy-five Illinois municipalities, including Chicago, ban hand-held cellphone use for all drivers.

Effective Jan. 1, the use of hand-held devices while driving will be illegal in Illinois, except in the case of an emergency. Hands-free technology will be allowed.

Little data is available on drivers texting while stopped in traffic. But using cellphones and texting while driving, more generally, cause 1.6 million accidents a year in the United States, according to the National Safety Council.

In Illinois, almost 6,000 crashes have 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. The toll included 30 fatalities and more than 2,500 injuries, IDOT said.

IDOT officials call those numbers conservative and say the crashes almost certainly include drivers who were texting while stopped in traffic.

Read the whole story at:  http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-texting-while-stopped-20131114,0,3433283.story

Watch a documentary about texting while driving by Werner Herzog

If you haven’t seen this already, “From One Second to the Next” is a powerful documentary about texting and driving by director Werner Herzog, commissioned by AT&T.  The documentary focuses on four accidents that occurred as a result of distracted driving.

For another point of view on this subject, here is a link to a story about a study which indicates that cellphone use does not cause more car crashes.  Here is part of their article:

“Using a cellphone while driving may be distracting, but it does not lead to higher crash risk in the setting we examined,” said Saurabh Bhargava, assistant professor of social and decision sciences in CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “While our findings may strike many as counterintuitive, our results are precise enough to statistically call into question the effects typically found in the academic literature. Our study differs from most prior work in that it leverages a naturally occurring experiment in a real-world context.”…

Additionally, the researchers analyzed the effects of legislation banning cellphone use, enacted in several states, and similarly found that the legislation had no effect on the crash rate. “One thought is that drivers may compensate for the distraction of cellphone use by selectively deciding when to make a call or consciously driving more carefully during a call,” Bhargava said. “This is one of a few explanations that could explain why laboratory studies have shown different results. The implications for policymakers considering bans depend on what is actually driving this lack of an effect. For example, if drivers do compensate for distraction, then penalizing cellphone use as a secondary rather than a primary offense could make sense. In the least, this study and others like it, suggest we should revisit the presumption that talking on a cellphone while driving is as dangerous as widely perceived.” Pathania, a fellow in the London School of Economics Managerial Economics and Strategy group, added a cautionary note. “Our study focused solely on talking on one’s cellphone. We did not, for example, analyze the effects of texting or Internet browsing, which has become much more popular in recent years. It is certainly possible that these activities pose a real hazard.”
Note: I had seen the Herzog documentary in various places on the web, but it was Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish blog that connected it with the study on use of cellphones while driving.