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A real problem with drivers who don’t understand basic physics

Monday, Mar 24, 2014

* I was driving on I-55 late yesterday afternoon when I saw a guy in my rear-view mirror who was about to pass me. He was holding his cell phone with one hand and gesturing wildly with the other hand. Neither hand was on his steering wheel as he shot by me at about 80 mph. I watched him for as long as I could behind me, alongside and in front of me. He never put either hand on the wheel.

Anyway, IDOT did a study last November of drivers ahead of a statewide ban on hand-held cellphone use

In Chicago, nearly 18 percent of all drivers who were observed during the study — about 21 percent of female drivers and 15 percent of male drivers — were holding cellphones or other electronic devices close to their ears or faces.

The statewide rate was about 12 percent, the study found. There was a similar gender gap among the smaller portion of violators statewide, with about 14 percent of female drivers and 10 percent of male drivers.

Electronic device use by drivers in Cook County was 12 percent and almost 13 percent in DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Winnebago counties, the IDOT study found.

Six downstate counties (Champaign, Bureau, Effingham, Rock Island, Madison and St. Clair) had the lowest rate of illegal electronic device use, at 9 percent , the study reported. […]

The campaign comes as newly released research shows virtually no change in the percentage of drivers text-messaging or visibly manipulating hand-held devices in the U.S. The percentage stood at 5 percent in 2012 — which means that at any given time during the day, an estimated 660,000 vehicles are driven by people using hand-held cellphones, according to the latest annual study conducted for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

* In other news

The chances of being able to legally drive 70 mph on Chicago-area expressways and tollways anytime soon hit a major speed bump Friday after a Senate panel rejected Republican U.S. Senate nominee Jim Oberweis’ push to allow higher speeds in the city and suburbs.

The 2-1 vote along party lines effectively kills legislation the state senator from Sugar Grove is carrying to clarify a law he helped pass last year that allowed 70-mph speed limits — up from 65 miles per hour — on rural interstates.

Oberweis had intended last year’s law, which passed overwhelmingly, to apply to Chicago and suburban expressways and tollways. But Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration interpreted it to apply to less heavily used arteries only outside Cook and the collar counties.

The senator’s new, clean-up legislation wouldn’t have mandated higher limits on city and suburb routes such as the Stevenson Expressway or Jane Addams Tollway, but it would have empowered the Illinois Department of Transportation and Illinois State Toll Highway Authority to impose them if the agencies wished.

* And

Blue Line service to O’Hare International Airport will be halted for at least until Tuesday as federal authorities investigate what caused a CTA train to jump the platform this morning and injure more than 30 people.

More than 10 hours after the crash, the train remained atop the escalator at the end of the track. Transit officials declined to discuss how or when they would dismantle the wreckage.

“The train is not going to go anywhere for the foreseeable future,” said Tim DePaepe, a railroad accident investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board. “It’s not going anywhere today. We need to examine the train and the position it’s in prior to its movement.”

Trains continue to run between Forest Park and Rosemont, where passengers then can catch a shuttle to the airport. The large, articulated buses are operating on a load-and-go basis instead of a schedule, adding 5 to 10 minutes to the typical airport trip, officials said.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Nonplussed - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 2:32 pm:

    Rich: you could have updated us on the missing Malaysian airline and called your post “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”

  2. - 47th Ward - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 2:33 pm:

    If I had a dollar for each time I’ve seen a driver in Chicago yapping away on a hand-held phone, I’d have a lot of dollars. Someone’s luck is going to run out and there will be a major accident because of stupid people and their phones. I’ll have little pity for the negligent driver responsible.

    Speaking of drivers, that CTA crash ought to get everyone’s attention. Wow. If that happened at 2:30 in the afternoon, we’d have a body count. It’s a small mirable no one was seriously hurt.

  3. - ChrisB - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 2:37 pm:

    @47th Ward — If Chicago had a dollar for each time CPD has seen a driver in Chicago yapping away on a hand-held phone, Chicago’d have a lot of dollars. –

    Fixed that for you.

    Didn’t they pass a law back in the mid-2000s against driving and talking on a cell phone? Actually enforcing the law MIGHT make a dent in that budget shortfall.

  4. - 47th Ward - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 2:42 pm:

    ChrisB, Chicago police don’t enforce traffic laws, and haven’t for years. Heck, they don’t get out of their cars anymore except at restaurants. Why do you think we need red light and speed cameras?

  5. - PERPLEXED - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 2:47 pm:

    Actually, replenishing the State Police to its mandated headcount would make a huge difference. It is not uncommon to drive from Chicago to St. Louis without encountering a Trooper. State Police testified last week in front of the general assembly that there are on average something like 2 Troopers for ever 4 counties. When one of your family gets injured or killed by one of these drivers, you will wish there were more Troopers out there.

  6. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 2:48 pm:

    Nonplussed -

    I laughed, then felt guilty.


  7. - Rich Miller - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 2:49 pm:

    My new car has adaptive cruise control. It slows you down automatically when you come up behind another driver. It’ll actually stop you if you’re about to crash, forward or in reverse. Also, the left side of the seat buzzes if you drift too far left, same with the right side of the seat.

    Unfortunately, if you try to drive with no hands, nothing happens. So, I’m not sure how to deal with mopes like that goofball on I-55 yesterday.

  8. - Rich Miller - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 2:54 pm:

    ===. It is not uncommon to drive from Chicago to St. Louis without encountering a Trooper.====

    Admittedly, I don’t drive on 55 as much as I used to when I lived in the city, but I’ve always seen multiple troopers on that Interstate. Always.

  9. - Stones - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 3:07 pm:

    I have to say since the statewide hand held cellphone ban went into effect Jan 1, I have noticed no difference in the number of people who use them illegally in their vehicles. Sadly, most appear to be soccer mom age females. The police really need to do a better job of enforcement for safety’s sake.

  10. - Joan P. - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 3:07 pm:

    Yet another reason to fly out of Midway.

  11. - Nearly Normal - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 3:08 pm:

    I have seen state police on I-55 the closer one gets to Springfield. Also on I-74 near Morton where there is major construction going on at the I-155 interchange.

  12. - Precinct Captain - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 3:08 pm:

    I don’t know about 55, but the last couple of years on 57 I’ve noticed a lot less troopers. In fact, last year was the first time I ever remember a 2+ hour trip on 57 without seeing a state trooper. I’ve had the same happen a couple of times since. The passenger I was with the first time noticed as well. Obviously, this is anecdotal evidence and I’m not sure what the average number of trooper patrol cars per county should be, but public safety, even traffic safety, is an important public priority and should be funded properly. Sometimes, without fatalities or accidents close to those they know, people will do dumb stuff like text, yap away on the phone and treat their car like a desk. Just makes me want Google’s self-driving cars even more to become a norm.

  13. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 3:11 pm:

    == He never put either hand on the wheel. ==

    He was driving with his thighs on the bottom of the wheel. As long as you don’t turn, it’s not that hard. I do it all the time. (OK, maybe once or twice :^))

  14. - Anon - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 3:21 pm:

    Shoot, that driver talking on his cell phone is nothing! You should come to my county and watch all our fine deputy sheriff’s gabbing on their phones while driving down our finely manicured and smooth paved highways!
    (Not sure if you can denote the sarcasm)

  15. - Been There - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 3:23 pm:

    ===ChrisB, Chicago police don’t enforce traffic laws, and haven’t for years. ====
    Talk to my daughter about that. She received a ticket while looking at her text while at a red light.

  16. - Bunson8r - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 3:30 pm:

    I think the idea that one in five violate the cellphone ban is extremely low. As someone who spends ~ 2.5 total commuting hours every day around the city, I can guarantee there are at least twice that amount. It’s really frustrating having to experience extra delays because so many people driving around are staring at their phone.

    Also, as far as Chicago police enforcing traffic laws, the amount has increased dramatically since Rahm took office and mandated more ticket revenue. I see people pulled over more often and notice troopers speed trapping on lake shore drive, which is something I had never seen before the last 2+ years.

  17. - Bunson8r - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 3:32 pm:

    Oh! And to Been There. I received a similar ticket for plugging my phone into a car charger at a stop light. Even more maddening I get nailed for it when I never use my phone while driving. Bad luck!

  18. - Bemused - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 3:57 pm:

    About three weeks back the wife and I ran with a group of cars for about 40-50 miles on I55. We watched one lady in an SUV talk on her phone for at least 35 of those miles. I think she did have the other hand on the wheel at most times. When I commented to the wife about this ladies ongoing illegal behavior she pointed out we were all doing a little better than 80mph.
    Never mind.

  19. - RNUG - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 3:58 pm:

    Personally, I’ve noticed a lot less troopers when traveling 74 & 55. Sometimes I don’t see a single one on a trip from Springfield to either St Louis or Quincy.

    While I can’t believe the number I see, actually, the people just talking on cell phones are the tip of the iceberg. I’ve seen prople actually doing paperwork on their steering wheel while driving down the interstates at 70 or higher. And in town the ones that scare me the most are the cops talking on their phones (I know they’re exempt) while also working the laptop and trying to drive. I’ll admit it’s a hard habit to break, but I’ve gotten pretty good at not using a handheld while driving … ;-) I just have MRS answer it for me.

  20. - Rahm's Parking Meter - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 4:04 pm:

    I take the Blue Line into O’Hare whenever I fly for work, and that image of the train at the top of the escalator is just so weird to look at. So lucky it was at the time it was versus even two hours later, when people would be rushing for a 6 AM Flight.

  21. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 4:11 pm:

    The tweeters are quoting a transit union rep as saying the train operator was “drowsy and may have nodded off.” Yikes. Also reporting that CTA has no systems to auto-stop the trains at the end of the lines. Obviously, but I kinda thought those were a must-have…

  22. - Gantt Chart - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 4:16 pm:

    Here’s an opportunity for additional charges and possible civil suits against these reckless self-centered Bozos. When they injure someone or damage other vehicles, subpoena their phone records to see whether or not their wireless device was in use at the time of the crash.

  23. - ChrisB - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 4:16 pm:

    @Been There

    Color me shocked. On my mile-long walk to work, I can bust about ten people daily. They don’t even hide it. Having to dodge these numbskulls all the time makes me think that enforcement is close to non-existent.

  24. - Soccermom - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 4:17 pm:

    Are we starting to see a pattern here? That CP give tickets only when the car is not moving and it’s easier?

  25. - In_The_Middle - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 4:28 pm:

    And here I thought the speed limit on I294 was actually 85. Hmph. Maybe they should make the speed limit signs larger and dayglo green so the people on their phones can see them.

  26. - What's in a name? - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 4:32 pm:

    @Been there

    Any chance your daughter is an attractive young woman?

  27. - Been There - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 4:41 pm:

    ===@Been there

    Any chance your daughter is an attractive young woman?
    Well actually yes. But she didn’t get a warning but a ticket.

  28. - DuPage - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 4:44 pm:

    @Been There, 3:23
    I thought the state law allowed the use if you were stopped at red lights, RR crossings, etc. just as long as you put it down before resuming driving. Did I get it wrong? Is Chicago’s law more strict?

  29. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 4:53 pm:

    RNUG, the multitasking cops scare me too. Like Rich’s experience, I wonder how they’re steering since the left hand is holding the cell and the right is typing. In fairness, I have never seen a State Trooper do this-only locals, one department in particular.

    Rich-do you like the new car with all the active safety gadgets? I had a service loaner awhile back with all those toys and the buzzing seat scared the crap out of me the first time I accidentally set it off. After driving it a bit, I think that’s a better warning method than the lights and noises the Germans use. Did you get the same model as your last one? I’m looking at that new little coupe coming out next year-not the electric one.

  30. - Springfield Outsider - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 5:13 pm:

    When the Car Radio Was Introduced, People Freaked Out!
    In 1930, laws were proposed in Massachusetts and St. Louis to ban radios while driving. According to automotive historian Michael Lamm, “Opponents of car radios argued that they distracted drivers and caused accidents, that tuning them took a driver’s attention away from the road, and that music could lull a driver to sleep.”

    Even the Auto Club of New York agreed. In their 1934 poll, 56 percent deemed the car radio a “dangerous distraction.” Arguing the other side was the Radio Manufacturers Association, who pointed out that car radios could be used to warn drivers of inclement weather and bad road conditions, as well as keeping them awake when they got drowsy.

  31. - Frosty-The Snowman - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 5:24 pm:

    Oh, Geez! Was that you on I-55 yesterday afternoon, Rich? Hey, sorry man. I didn’t know that was you. I have always been able to steer my car straight on down the road just by using my knees. It usually amazes the people that are riding in my car with me. They always get a “totally surprised” look on their faces whenever I do it. This way I can eat a cheeseburger and drink a Coke while still heading on to my destination. I have gotten to be excellent at multi-tasking while driving down the road.

  32. - Frosty-The Snowman - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 5:25 pm:

    And, of course, I was just teasing you.

  33. - RNUG - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 6:28 pm:

    - DuPage - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 4:44 pm:

    I’m pretty sure the requirement is that the gear shift be in neutral or park to avoid a ticket.

  34. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 6:35 pm:

    When I was a kid, drinking and driving, smoking weed and driving, and driving fast with your head up your ass were all socially acceptable.

    Thanks to MADD, they no longer are. That was a big change, a big grassroots deal to be celebrated.

    Ralph Nader made his bones on the theory that you couldn’t change people’s behavior in cars. You had to change the cars. He was wrong.

    Can you imagine now being loaded, not wearing a seatbelt and driving on those country roads?

    I used to do it all the time when I was a kid.

    My boys drink beer, but they never, ever, drink and drive. It’s not on their radar.

    MADD made some serious changes in how we act.


  35. - Trooper - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 7:30 pm:

    On a typical Saturday the state will have roughly 200 troopers working. That’s in the entire state including the tollway. 102 counties. DChgo will have around 25, the tollway about the same. D2 Elgin, D5 Joliet and D11 Collinsville will each have 8-12. Every other district will be 3-6 troops. The MAXIMUM staffing on a weekend in my district is 5 per shift. We are at about 65% of where we were a decade ago.

  36. - A Citizen - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 7:51 pm:

    Trooper, thanks for your service. If you see OW out there please ticket him (or her) for unnecessary rudeness andon general principles. Thanks

  37. - globalguy - Monday, Mar 24, 14 @ 9:35 pm:

    And they complaon about is bikers.

  38. - Capo - Tuesday, Mar 25, 14 @ 7:54 am:

    It’s not so much the under staffing of the state police although this may be a factor. It probably has more to do with the way the personnel resources are allocated. Lots of brass, admin personnel and plain clothes personnel doing everything but enforcing traffic regulations. And Rich to your point of always seeing a troop on I 55 when heading to Springfield. Probably has more to do with the troops heading from their northern residence or assignment to the academy or admin headquarters located in Springfield and less to do with troops actually assigned to patrol functions at that particular time.

  39. - Pauline - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 2:32 am:

    Really when someone doesn’t know after that its up to other users that they will help, so here it occurs.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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