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Question of the day

Thursday, Sep 30, 2010

* The Highway Loss Data Institute released a study this week that claims state bans on texting while driving don’t work. Jamey Dunn fills us in

The institute compared insurance claims data with stats from before and after the bans, as well as with those of neighboring states that did not have bans. Researchers also considered other factors that can affect collision rates, such as seasonal changes in traffic. The instance of collisions did not go down in any of the states; in fact, it went up a small amount in three of the four states studied. The largest increase was 9 percent in Minnesota. According to the study: “If the goal of texting and cell phone bans is the reduction of crash risk, then the bans have so far been ineffective.”

And I can attest to this…

From the report: “This unexpected consequence of banning texting suggests that texting drivers have responded to the law perhaps by attempting to avoid fines by hiding their phones from view. If this causes them to take their eyes off the road more than before the ban, then the bans may make texting more dangerous rather than eliminating it.”

I’ve held my iPhone down low when looking up phone numbers because I didn’t want to get busted for texting, even though I wasn’t texting. I stopped doing that when I realized what an idiot I was being.

* So, what to do? Ban cellphone usage entirely? Rep. John D’Amico, a sponsor of the Illinois texting ban, says that’s a way to go…

D’Amico said a ban on using cell phones while driving would be a better solution. Illinois currently bans drivers from talking on phones in school and construction zones. He compared a possible ban to laws against driving while intoxicated, which have become more strictly enforced, causing the drunken driving to elicit more of a social stigma than it did in past decades. He said people will eventually see using a cell phone the way people see driving drunk now, and will say: “‘Boy I can’t believe we used to be allowed to do that.’”

But the Institute says that won’t help much, either…

Fleming said another study from the institute found hands-free options to be just as dangerous as standard cell phones. However, the same study also found cell phone bans to be ineffective in cutting accidents. Fleming acknowledges that such results are disappointing to those interested in improving driver safety. But, she said, if police can find better ways to catch violators in the act of texting or talking on the phone, bans could help make roads safer.

* Mobile phone usage while driving is potentially very dangerous, however...

A Virginia Tech study last year found that among truckers, dialing a cell phone made a driver 5.9 times more likely to cause an accident, while text messaging increased the likelihood 23.2 times.

* The Question: Should the state ban cellphone usage while driving? Period. Not just mandate hands-free use, but ban it entirely. Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Matt - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:15 pm:

    I think a total ban goes way too far. In this age, we need our cell phones, simple as that. Any supporter of that should try not using their cell phone in their car for a week and see how well it works. Nevermind the fact that it would be violated with ease. I highly doubt an officer could spot a tiny bluetooth headseat on the right ear of a driver.

  2. - Fan of the Game - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:16 pm:

    No. Talking on the phone is no more of a distraction than fiddling with the radio/CD/mp3 player or eating a Quarter Pounder or talking to the person in the seat next to you.

    Driving by itself is inherently dangerous, and we assume those risks when we get in a car. Cell phones–for better or worse–are a huge part of the social and business landscape, and banning their use while driving will require a paradigm shift for which people and society are not prepared.

  3. - A.B. - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:19 pm:


    I can see a requirement for use of a hands free device and a requirement for voice activated dialing.

    The one thing a ban on cell phone use would do is create a bloody election season for the next year.

  4. - Anon - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:21 pm:

    No. People who can’t responsibly operate a phone while driving (there are ways of doing it) probably have just as much problems with other distractions, like that restaurant they just passed or what Onarga reminds them of.

  5. - shore - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:22 pm:

    I think implementation is going to be very difficult and that needs to be a legit consideration. How does a cop know when you opened a text or on your blackberry and how does he prove it-lots of people read emails while sitting in traffice? does a police officer, given the recession, really want to create a whole new category of arrests to make? If a police officer is sitting hidden looking for speeding vehicles on a highway, does he keep his eyes peeled for speeding drivers, drunk drivers and now trying to figure out if a guy driving at 50 mph has a snickers bar or a cell phone in his hand? can the courts really deal with a whole new set of cases where a driver contests a 120 dollar ticket because a cop thought he was reading about alexi’s latest bank loan on cap fax while driving his kid to gymnastics?

    I see the need for it and would support it largely because the thought of a huge truck driving into me because he was checking his fantasy football scores scares me, but implementation is going to be very very hard.

  6. - Nieva - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:27 pm:

    I worked for IDOT for 20 years and all I can say is when you are flagging traffic it is easy to spot the texters and distracted drivers. They are the ones crossing the center line and the last to stop at your flag. They always say they are sorry when they run the flag and have to back up but sorry don’t get it when they run over and kill or injure the flagman or somebody in the line of traffic that has already stopped. If it’s that important to make the call or recieve it pull off and put on the flashers if you can. If not wait till you get home. Most of the texts that are sent are much about nothing anyway!!

  7. - Redbright - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:27 pm:

    Given the massive civil disobedience on this issue, why not just up the fine A LOT for using a cellphone in any mode while causing an accident.

  8. - lake county democrat - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:28 pm:

    The study is pathetic, sponsored by interested parties (a consortium of insurers), and the media has done a horrible disservice to the public by touting it so unquestioningly.

  9. - bored now - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:29 pm:

    no. i definitely will use my phone no matter what, but i do pull off the road to text or to dial a number that’s not in my recall numbers.

  10. - lake county democrat - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:30 pm:

    Here’s how to stop this insanity: the auto insurance industry needs to put a clause in their policies that if an accident happens while texting they will pay out to third parties but not the driver. This won’t stop all, but it’d stop a lot.

  11. - vole - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:36 pm:

    Yes. People believe they can master multitasking. But this has been scientifically proven wrong. People are only able to concentrate on one task at a time. When you talk on a cell phone you are distracted from your primary task. You bounce back and forth between attention to the road and attention to your phone conversation. It only takes a fraction of a second of distraction to endanger your life, your passengers and other drivers.

    The next time you talk on your cell phone, do a little self testing. After concentrating on your call, try to recall the scene you just drove through. Much of it will be a total blank.

    And talking on a cell phone is not the same as talking with a passenger. Your passengers have their eyes on the road too and often aid the driver in spotting danger ahead.

    Claiming the need is only heightening your own sense of importance. You are only adding to the dangers on the road.

    Talk with motorcyclists. One of their greatest fears is getting creamed by a distracted cell phone user.

  12. - Thoughts... - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:40 pm:

    I’ve been guilty of all of the above but pretty much stopped after I got rear-ended by a guy who was talking on his phone. It was very low speed, but still.

    I remember a study that concluded that talking on a cell phone, whether hands free or not, basically makes you as dangerous as a drunk driver. That’s enough for me - I’m for a ban.

    Will it be difficult? Sure. Implementation and more importantly, compliance, will be an arduous process, but that’s not new. When the seat belt law was put in place, compliance was what, 50-60%? And now it’s north of 80%. When people realized that there was a serious penalty for DUI, rather than “go home and take it easy,” the number of people driving drunk went down.

    I’m loathe to put a new mandate on cops, especially considering violent crime, but if an effort is made, compliance will rise. Right now, I don’t see that effort in Chicago cops. I’ve seen texters/talkers drive in front of cops more times than I can count. Heck, I’ve seen cops on their phones. And as a pedestrian, I’ve nearly been hit by driving/texting drivers dozens of times as well. They’re dangerous. It’d suck for the drive to Springfield, but I’m all for it.

  13. - Cincinnatus - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:40 pm:

    Redbright (modified slightly to say if the cellphone cause another violation) + lake county democrat = correct solution

  14. - We Todd Did - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:48 pm:

    The state should ban everything that might hurt anybody. If anyone is hurt for any reason it is obviously the State of Illinois’ fault. We need to legislate away all risk no matter how significant. We should pass a bill banning cancer, problem solved.

  15. - Pot calling kettle - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:49 pm:

    20 years ago no one used their cellphones while driving. Why is it a necessity now?

  16. - John Bambenek - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:52 pm:

    Why don’t we just permanently revoke the licenses of people who repeatedly cause accidents? It might be a lot easier to enforce than outlawing this or that behavior.

  17. - Cuban Pilot - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:52 pm:

    No. A total ban should not be implemented because the overwhelming majority of people will just ignore this law. Why institute a law that no one will follow? The more scofflaws you create, the less respect people have the for law.

  18. - Responsa - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:56 pm:

    Texting is the biggest problem because it is so ubiquitous now and involves both the eyes AND the hands. Hand held devices which allow surfing the net and checking email while driving are a close second. Add to that, the fact that a lot of texters and surfers are younger drivers who lack driving experience (and judgment) in general.

    For twenty years users of car phones and cell phones mostly managed to still watch the road and drive while talking. Before that was the CB radio. The latest technology has moved vehicular communication into a whole nother and more dangerous level. Open liquor is against the law in cars and cannot be visible. Open cellphones should be put away too. I do believe hands free for outgoing and incoming voice conversation should be legal in cars, though.

  19. - Wondering... - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 12:57 pm:

    No. But I am with Cincinnatus and RB and LCD… jack up the fines for violations and allow insurance companies to modify coverage for accidents caused by cell phone use. Hit them where it hurts… in the pocket.

  20. - D.P. Gumby - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 1:02 pm:

    I have more trouble getting the CD out of its case than I do w/ my cell phone…but then I couldn’t text and drive if my life depended on it, so I don’t see how anyone does it. Now, what about the in car computer and GPS systems, etc. There needs to be increased safety mechanisms for use of cell phones in vehicles…oral dialing etc as prohibition and high fines will be ineffective.

  21. - Segatari - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 1:02 pm:

    Why don’t they target OTHER activities while driving? Why does the cell phone get the blame for EVERYTHING? They should mandate keeping both hands on the wheel the entire time they are in the car and be quiet. I’ll tell you right now, I will NOT obey a cell phone ban. I will look for any cops then make my call.

  22. - Pot calling kettle - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 1:04 pm:

    You could ban it, but it couldn’t be enforced. Perhaps natural selection will remedy this problem.

    The law should be against reckless driving regardless of the cause. (Oh, hey, we already have that! Let’s enforce it.)

  23. - Vote Quimby! - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 1:05 pm:

    No, not a complete ban. Instead, how about increasing fines for improper lane usage. I have lost count how many people I could tell were texting or using a phone who couldn’t keep it between the lines.

  24. - Irish - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 1:07 pm:

    No, Unless you are also going to ban, reading a paper or book while driving, ( I have seen this quite often driving into Chicago), putting on makeup, eating, and talking to passengers. I have followed people who tend to speed up when they are not talking and then you see them turn to their passengers and gesturing and carrying on a conversation, they begin to slow down. This goes on over and over. I try to get around them asap.

    Handsfree is the way to go. I drive to northern Wisconsin quite often and have no difficulty receiving and making calls hands free. I stay completely focused on the traffic and road. I am in the car seven hours and receive many calls from family or work. I think you will cause more problems if you have drivers frantically trying to get to the side of the road to receive an incoming call.

    I wonder if a study has been done regarding the use of any electronic device, ie i-pods, and driving and if the numbers are similar. I have seen and ridden with people who are fiddling with their GPS as much if not more than their cell phone.

    The real solution for all of it might be to put the technology currently advertised for Mercedes -Benz, where the car notifies you if you drift into another lane, or stops the car if you don’t notice something/someone in front of you.

  25. - vole - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 1:08 pm:

    “jack up the fines for violations and allow insurance companies to modify coverage for accidents caused by cell phone use. Hit them where it hurts… in the pocket.”

    What kind of measure would you use for fatalities or extremely disabling injuries? A bit too late then.

    And fines imply that laws prohibiting cell phone use are in place.

    Americans suck at prevention. Live for the moment.

  26. - Concerned Observer - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 1:08 pm:


    And I saw a state legislator texting/checking his email/something on his cell phone while stuck in traffic on the Eisenhower Tuesday. I don’t know who it was, but his license plate has the same number as John Fritchey’s district (it wasn’t Fritchey, of course — House license plates are done by seniority).

  27. - WRMNpolitics - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 1:12 pm:

    Unfortunately, another law will not have the intended effect of stopping texting or distractions from cellphone usage. One only has to look at the equipment in today’s vehicles to see that our cars have evolved from methods of transportation to mobile living spaces, with cupholders, dvd players, satellite entertainment , cellphone communications and in some cases, built in beverage coolers. This has changed the way we think of and operate our vehicles. Until technology is installed in vehicles that eliminate the ability to use a cellphone when the car is in motion, no law will have solve the problem.

  28. - Aldyth - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 1:22 pm:

    Yes, with the addition that cell phone use is banned while the vehicle is in motion.

    Most of us can remember a time when we functioned perfectly well without a cell phone. The world does not need to reach us or us reach the world every single moment of the day. When we’re driving or using a restroom, cell phones don’t belong.

  29. - SangamoGOP - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 1:27 pm:

    Upon hearing that current law has no “positive” effect, D’Amico naturally fell to a legislator’s default position which is enact legislation restricts even more. Of course, the obvious thing would be to get rid of the initial legislation and stop trying to legislate away risk. There are already negligence standards on the books. There is no need for more legislation!

  30. - Thoughts... - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 1:30 pm:

    ===Perhaps natural selection will remedy this problem.===

    Doubt it - if that were the case, the only victims of DUI wrecks would be the drunks, and that’s almost never the case

  31. - TwoFeetThick - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 1:49 pm:

    Easy one - ban it, with penalties on par with those for DUI. Get caught, lose your license. I can’t count how many times I’ve almost been hit by some idiot on what was no doubt a very important call. Just a couple of weeks ago I saw a car about to cross my path coming up on a stop sign at what I knew would be too fast to stop (I did not have a stop sign). I slammed my brakes on and swerved, and clearly saw the phone stuck to her head as she turned to see who was honking at her. I’m surprised she even noticed that. I would like to think that she immediately hung up the phone and spent the rest of the day thanking God that she didn’t get a face full of my front bumper, but I’m sure she was totally clueless as to what almost happened and why.

  32. - Cincinnatus - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 1:50 pm:

    I had a woman flip her minivan (son broke his arm) in front of me while she was fishing for change for an upcoming toll booth. Let’s ban tolls…

  33. - schwarz - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 1:57 pm:

    Yes and violations should result in hefty fines. I don’t know about the rest of you but I want the drivers around me to be completely focused on driving.

  34. - No Peotone Airport - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 2:27 pm:


    I’ve had too many close calls now, both where I was nearly a victim, and also where I might have victimized someone else. No message or conversation warrants the risk being taken.

    It’s the right thing to do, and it should be done.

  35. - Pot Stirrer - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 2:53 pm:

    Ban them? Heck no. Those of us that are road warriors have to do business on the road with a phone and I have been doing so for twenty years.

    Are they more dangerous and distracting. Of course, but less so on the rural interstate than in the middle of Chicago expressway traffic.

    As was pointed out repeatedly earlier, if it is not cell phones, it would be something else.

    I do think that it might be worthwhile to consider some type of “NO PHONE ZONE” sign in areas that have experienced particular problems and enforce that.

    Texting is absolutely out of the question.

    But the reality is, some folks will never adhere to it anyway. As long as they are not running into me I just consider it part of the “culling of the herd.”

    But while we are at it, lets cover something more critical. I cannot even believe the number of kids I still see standing up in seats while their parents are driving down the road. I say send those folks to jail on the spot.

  36. - Ghost - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 3:01 pm:

    Sorry I was too busy watching my in car DVD while eatin food from the fast food restraunt and using my wirless hotspot to read this blog to text my answer to your phone.

    No, there are so many things that happen in a care already this is less then a drop in a bucket.

  37. - Ghost - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 3:32 pm:

    You want fewer accidents? we need a law prohibiting spouses from nagging the driver….

  38. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 3:33 pm:

    I would cheer you, Ghost, but I’d be afraid my wife would see it. lol

  39. - Wensicia - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 4:28 pm:

    Yes, ban them. Driving was never this risky over ten years ago. I’ve had a few close calls with people using cellphones, I would never use mine in the car. I don’t know if fines would hurt, but a ticket for cell phone use should have greater weight than any other moving violation, causing your insurance to rise and/or be discontinued with repeated violations. Any accident tied to cellphone use should also carry a charge of negligent or reckless disregard for others, or something like it.

  40. - Say WHAT? - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 5:05 pm:

    Texting while driving is currently illegal, but so many still do it daily. On my way to and from works I see them, their little thumbs getting a work out, other drivers having to dodge them, honk at them to keep from being hit. I have all but been run off the road by texters. Being on a cell phone in school zones is illegal, but I drive through one every day and see people on their cell phones who don’t plan to change their ways. How are these laws enforceable? If we continue to pass laws that are not enforceable, then where are the teeth? Uninforceable laws are worthless.

  41. - curious - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 5:26 pm:

    YES! I feel that there are so many more cars on the road these days and more distractions-you need to put the phone away and focus on driving. There are so many things going on while driving bicycle riders, pedestricians, construction.

    The laws that D’Amico has passed have saved lives-bottom line isn’t that what we are trying to do? Technology keeps moving forward-it’s suppose to make lives easier but there are times-like driving that we should ALL concentrate on driving.

    For those that say not to ban cell phones I would like to see comments if someone in your family were hit and killed or severly injured by a person on a cell phone or texting. It’s easy to complain that you need to be on your phone until something bad happens.

    For once we have someone in office that is trying to make our roads safer and save lives-it’s nice to see that our politiians are banning together to make roads in Illinois safer. We as drivers need to follow the law or I say double-even triple fines and then let’s see how many people are on the phone! GREAT law!

    If drunk drivers continued to drive drunk or drink in the car should we eleminate that law? If people continue to murder should we eleminate that law? Where is common sense?

  42. - Park - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 6:26 pm:

    How ’bout no texting while walking? Downtown Chicago, I have to pass a bunch of people slowing the walk to the office by playing thumbtag. People, get a life….it can wait.

  43. - cynically anonymous - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 8:16 pm:

    It would be nice if we could legislate common sense and courtesy and then this discussion wouldn’t be necessary. But since studies seem to show that using cell phones while driving is comparable to driving drunk, I think they should be banned and the penalties for getting caught on a par with DUI or crossing the tracks when the lights are flashing ($250). Yes it would be inconvenient, and yes, people would still do it, but hopefully it would be a deterrent for more people than not and fewer of us would get rear-ended or nearly sideswiped, or maimed or killed.

  44. - Huh? - Thursday, Sep 30, 10 @ 11:21 pm:

    This would be very easy to enforce by requiring manufacturers to include an application that would deactivate the device if it were going facter than 5 miles per hour.

    The imbedded GPS can be used to determine if the device were exceeding the “speed limit”.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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* It seems like it’s everywhere, that video of the final moments of Laquan’s life
* Laquan McDonald.
* Sixteen shots. The story that broke the silence.

* Emergency Management Officials, National Weather Service Encourage Winter Preparedness - November is Winter Weather Preparedness Month in Illinois
* Keep Your Family Safe This Winter - November through February are leading months for carbon monoxide related incidents
* Governor Takes Bill Action
* Illinois Department of Labor Director Hugo Chaviano Awards Governor’s Award for Contributions in Health and Safety to the Illinois Refining Division of Marathon Petroleum Company LP
* State Regulator Elected Treasurer of Interstate Medical Licensure Compact

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