Articles Posted in Texting Laws

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As of recently, there have been many important changes made on Illinois roadways that our Chicago car accident attorneys believe all motorists should be aware of while driving. On Friday, Illinois governor Pat Quinn signed four new laws to improve road safety throughout the state by reducing speeding and distracted driving.

Chicago.cbslocal.com states that most publicized law signed is named “Julie’s Law,” named after a 17 year-old Orland Park teen who lost her life last year after being struck by a speeding driver traveling 76mph in a 40mph zone. The governor was joined by legislators, community leaders, and families of crash victims to enact the law, which prohibits courts from granting supervision to any defendant charged with operating a vehicle at a speed greater than 30mph over the posted speed limit on highways, or in excess of 25 mph in urban districts. “Our daughter Julie represents how unsafe everyone’s child and loved ones are out on the roads when excessive speeders, who often repeatedly offend and use loopholes in the laws to escape with minimal if any consequences,” the teen’s mother says. Illinois State Police Troopers believe stiffer penalties will help keep the behavior from becoming a habit. The law is effective July 1st, 2013.

Our Illinois car accident lawyers read that Quinn also signed additional laws to improve traffic safety. One of these laws, effective January 1st, 2013, prohibits the use of cell phones in all roadway work and construction zones, which Quinn hopes will prevent distracted driving and increase protection for work crews. This law is an expansion of a previous law that only prohibited cell phone use in work zones with speed limit reductions. Another piece of legislation signed by Quinn bans motorists from using cell phones when driving within 500 feet of an emergency scene. Thus, talking and taking photos of the scene is prohibited, effective immediately. Finally, the Illinois Vehicle Code has been brought into compliance with federal regulations and prohibits motor vehicle operators from using cell phones or engaging in texting while driving, both being considered as “serious traffic violations.” This law is effective January 1st, 2013.
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Unless it involves a celebrity, car crashes rarely make it outside the local news cycle. Unpredictably, a fairly common car crash, taking place in 2009, managed to make national headlines this past month. CBS News reports that the accident involved a then 18-year-old male who crashed into two motorcycle riders while texting his girlfriend. The motorcycle riders each lost a leg from the accident.

The driver pleaded guilty to the traffic violations, and was fined and ordered to talk at numerous schools about the dangers of cell phone use while driving. This clear-cut case of driver negligence made its way into the national news as a result of the damages lawsuit, filed against both the driver and his girlfriend. The lawsuit claimed that the girlfriend was “electronically present” and thus also responsible for the accident.

When the case first made headlines, our Chicago car accident lawyers looked into the various liability issues associated with texting and driving. Now, the case has been decided, with the judge dismissing the girlfriend from the damages suit. According to the same CBS News story, the judge said that holding the girlfriend responsible for her electronic presence was unreasonable and would lay the foundation for lawsuits based on any number of distractions inherent in driving. Other arguments were made against the ability of the “electronically present” to know the receiver’s situation before sending the text to them.
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The Chicago Tribune recently reported that the Illinois House of Representatives has passed a new law aimed at reducing the risk of auto accidents. The law would institute a ban on the use of cell phones within a 500-foot proximity of auto accidents. As our Chicago car accident lawyers understand it, the ban would also apply to the use of other mobile devices such as laptops, but not to the use of navigation systems. There are also exceptions to the ban, including the legal use of cell phones when pulled over on the shoulder of the road and when in park or neutral due to obstructions in traffic.

The bill passed the House by a wide margin, but it was not without criticism. Opponents of the law believe that the law is an instance of severe overregulation. The proponents, conversely, view the regulation as a necessary means to reduce the risks associated with driving.

Many accident lawyers, as well as our very own Chicago car accident attorneys, have noted the increase in laws targeted at cell phone use while driving. Preceding Illinois automotive laws dealing with the use of cell phones have banned the use of such devices in school and construction zones. Additional Illinois laws have banned text messaging while driving. In a previous post in our Chicago car accident lawyer blog, our attorneys discussed the potential complications of determining the scope and proper enforcement of such laws.
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Last week FoxNews reported a fatal car accident involving cell phone usage. A young adult was found to be texting two to three minutes before the accident occurred, and due to her distracted driving, she crashed into a garbage truck head-on. The young woman died during the crash and an unsent message was found on her phone when investigating the accident site.

Texting while driving, and driving distracted in general, is extremely dangerous and, as illustrated here, can cause harmful injuries or even death. A new organization called TXTResponsibily raises awareness to the issues that texting while driving pose. They are working towards new texting laws and educational awareness campaigns to spread the message. As mentioned in previous posts, our Illinois injury attorneys continue to encourage drivers to focus on the road and avoid all distractions. Distraction.gov has a feed on their site with recent accidents to bring awareness to the frequency of these accidents. The site also has a list of top Illinois texting laws including:

• A ban on all cell phone use for all types of bus drivers • A ban on all cell phone use for all drivers under the age of 19 • A ban on all texting for all drivers • A ban on all cellphone use for school zones or highway construction zones

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The Doings Weekly recently discussed the Illinois texting while driving law, and what police in Chicago’s western suburbs are doing to enforce it. The article reports that in some towns, law enforcement officials have started heavily enforcing the law, while others choose not to enforce it. The reason why some police do not enforce the texting law is because they feel that among driving laws, for example, speeding or driving under the influence, texting while driving does not seem like the most pressing issue.

However, texting while driving is clearly dangerous and should be a priority. In 2009 the Virginia Tech Transportation Institution administered a study that showed texting while driving makes getting in an accident 23 times more likely. Distracted driving is responsible for one-fifth of injury crashes, according to the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration. Some police claim that it’s challenging to decide whether or not someone is texting, dialing a number, changing radio stations, messing with an mp3 player or GPS, etc. However, law enforcement should be taking steps to deter drivers from any form of distracted driving.

The Doings Weekly compares the recent texting law to the required seat belt law that occurred decades ago. Today, the seatbelt law is heavily enforced, and although it is challenging to tell if someone is wearing one or not , police make those calls. The texting law exists to encourage people to create safe driving habits, and to help them better understand the seriousness of driving distracted. Distracted driving can lead to serious Illinois car accidents and personal injuries.

Our Chicago accident attorneys applaud the towns listed in the article that seriously enforce texting while driving laws, including:
• La Grange • Western Springs • Hinsdale • Oakbrook Terrace • Clarendon Hills • Burr Ridge
Penalties vary depending on whether or not texting while driving is considered a state law or as the individual community’s ordinance. Usually, when it is enforced as an ordinance, there is a fine that can start from $35.00 and go as high as $165.00. The state offense has an $120.00 fine.
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