Wisely, the state of Illinois completely bans texting while driving, one of the most dangerous phenomena to emerge in our time. Additionally, Illinois forbids any cell phone use whatsoever for bus drivers, for those driving in a school zone or highway construction zone, and for all drivers under 19 years of age. These laws make our streets safer; as police make stops for texting or cell phone use, more drivers will be discovered driving while intoxicated or driving on suspended licenses.
Distracted driving, however, includes more than texting or talking on cell phones, and it represents a significant danger to motorists, passengers, and pedestrians. Distracted driving can include eating or drinking (anything) while driving, talking to passengers, personal grooming, reading (especially maps), using a navigation system, watching a video, or adjusting a radio, CD player, or mp3 player.
It’s a growing problem. Despite the laws that have been adopted by Illinois and other states, 3,331 people died in accidents involving a distracted driver in 2011, compared to 3,267 in 2010. A full 10 percent of the accidents that involved injuries in 2011 were reported as distraction-related crashes.
Prudent measures can be taken. Obviously, drivers should avoid eating, drinking, reading, grooming, or watching videos while driving. Ask your passengers to let you focus your attention on the road. Turn off your cell phone or ignore it. Always wear a safety belt, and try not to drive at night if it can possibly be avoided. If you’re planning to drive, the wisest choice is to avoid drinking alcohol altogether; if you must drink, use a designated driver, taxicab, or car service.
If, despite your best efforts, you become involved in a distracted-driving accident, protect your rights; do not admit fault or put your signature on any insurance forms before contacting an experienced personal injury attorney. If possible, have photos taken of your injuries and any damage to your vehicle. Keep and make copies of any insurance, police, or medical forms you receive as a result of the accident.
Most importantly, if any injury occurs, speak to an experienced personal injury attorney as quickly as possible. A good personal injury lawyer will protect your rights, advise you regarding your legal options, and fight to win any compensation you deserve for your injuries. In any accident, your rights and your health must remain your top priority. And finally, please, don’t drive while distracted.
Summer, Teens and Distracted Driving
Summer is the season when Chicago comes alive, but it’s also the time of year when teens are driving more – at all hours – and involved in more accidents. Teen drivers have less experience behind the wheel and less capacity to make the right split-second decisions. Teen drivers also seem to be more easily distracted by their passengers, their cell phones, and other potential distractions. Still, a teen’s inexperience is no excuse. When the state issues a driver’s license to a teenager, that teen agrees to drive safely and responsibly. If you are injured in an accident caused by a negligent teen driver in the Chicago area, discuss your rights and options at once with experienced Chicago personal injury attorney Joseph M. Dooley. Depending on the details of an accident, the parents of a teen driver may also be liable.
How dangerous are teen drivers compared to adults? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), young people ages 15-to-24 constitute only 14 percent of the U.S. population, but they account for 30 percent of the cost of traffic accident injuries among males (about $19 billion annually) and 28 percent of the costs of traffic accident injuries among females (about $7 billion annually). In 2011, more than 2,600 teens in the United States aged 16-to-19 were killed and nearly 292,000 were treated in emergency rooms as a result of traffic collisions. On average, seven teenagers die in traffic accidents every day in the U.S.
Have a talk with your teenagers about distracted driving: tell them no cell phones and no horseplay is allowed. Make sure teens know that using their cell phones is not the only kind of distraction they can face on the road. Playing with the radio, putting on makeup, eating, drinking or talking to friends are all forms of distractions. Teens need to know that all of these behaviors are dangerous when operating a vehicle. Also, parents should lead by example when it comes to teaching teens about distracted driving. If you use your cell phone behind the wheel, believe it or not, teens will watch what you do and follow in your footsteps.
Besides leading by example, you should also talk to your teens about the consequences of distracted driving. Many teens mistakenly believe that distracted driving is just a slight risk. They have a hard time believing that using their phone behind the wheel can lead to serious consequences. They also may be unaware that it’s actually against the law, and besides injuring someone with their careless behavior, they could face legal consequences as well. All of this should be communicated to teens so that they are fully aware of why they shouldn’t be driving while distracted.
When teens are driving either by themselves or with friends, parents should refrain from texting them. Show them that you want them to focus on the road instead of picking up their phone to text you back. When parents contact teen drivers, teens don’t want to get in trouble so they feel the need to respond as soon as possible. Don’t put your teens in the situation where they have to choose their safety or making you happy.
If you are injured in an accident with a distracted teen driver, seek medical attention immediately, but be certain to get the names of the driver and parents, the driver’s license and license plate numbers, and all of the contact information for the teen driver’s insurance company. After obtaining medical treatment, discuss your case at once with experienced Chicago personal injury attorney Joseph M. Dooley. Contact Joseph Dooley by email at [email protected] or call 312-219-5916 promptly after any Chicago-area accident with injuries.