Distraction is Deadly
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving was a direct cause of vehicle crashes resulting in 3,450 deaths in 2016. While this was a decrease from 2015, it is still 3,450 lives lost to a factor completely within the control of the driver of a vehicle. Distracted driving includes any activity that takes the driver’s attention away from operating the vehicle, including reaching for an item dropped between or under the seat, arguing with other passengers or children, applying makeup or shaving. While these activities may seem harmless, they still cause the driver to divert their attention from what is going on around them. Remember, a vehicle traveling at 25 miles per hour covers almost 37 feet per second and at when traveling at 45 miles per hour, 66 feet per second.
Cell phones, or electronic communication devices as they are known in Illinois’ law, are an immense source of distraction in the vehicle. Whether it is looking for a contact to make a phone call, checking social media, or trying to take that perfect driving “selfie,” resisting the urge to use your cell phone is important to safe driving. It may be tempting to check that latest notification from your favorite app or just take a quick peek at a text message, but recall the distances stated above. The distance traveled in that second of distraction makes all the difference in avoiding a child running out into the road on a neighborhood street or another vehicle making a quick stop in front of you.
State law on distracted driving (625 ILCS 5/12-610.1) states that a driver may not use a cell phone while operating a vehicle on the roadway unless it is an emergency situation or they are using a “hands-free” device. Holding your cell phone in your hand while it is on speaker phone does not count as “hands-free.” Currently only the second violation of this law is considered a moving violation, but starting July 1 the first violation becomes a moving violation as well. Three moving violations in the space of a year will result in a suspension of driving privileges.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, so expect to see an increase in education efforts with radio and television ads as well as increased enforcement efforts by law enforcement including the Huntley Police Department. Please do your part and pay attention to the road every second that you are driving. It may just save your or someone else’s life.
Huntley Safety 1st is the monthly education series written by the staff of the Huntley Police Department to provide citizens with information on public safety related issues.