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New T-W-D Law Really Needed?

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government

New T-W-D Law Really Needed?

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
December 26, 2008


Does Illinois really need a new prima facie law that prohibits Texting While Driving (TWD)?

Check out this morning's front-page story in the Northwest Herald (also online at www.nwherald.com). According to reporter Amber Krosel's story, some legislators have a proposed new law up their sleeves for this spring in Springfield.

The "distracted driving numbers" with the story don't tell the whole story. "377 crashes in McHenry County in 2007 involving distraction as a contributing cause." And in 2008 when, presumably, more drivers might have have been texting, talking, tuning, multi-tasking with their iPods and BlackBerries, only 267 crashes?

OK, well, out of how many total crashes? Did drivers wise up and hide their "distractors" and become smart enough not to tell the traffic investigator that they were doing anything except driving the car? How did the reporting officer identify the distraction?

Almost no driver gives 100% attention to driving his car. The question is, can a driver safely operate his vehicle while doing something else?

Rolling forward in traffic and looking at your face in the rearview mirror while applying mascara? How about a Reckless Driving charge? "Any person who drives any vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving." If a woman is applying make-up and taking her eyes off the road ahead for 3-4-5 seconds to look in the mirror while her car is moving, is she willfully disregarding the safety of persons or property?

How about when a driver reads a book or newspaper while driving forward? Reckless Driving? (Ex., the police officer on Route 72 several years ago who was reading a newspaper as he drove past me at 65MPH in a 55 zone?)

Now how about talking on a cell phone or texting? Can that be done safely? Talking? Yes. Texting? I doubt it. A driver's eyes are off the road too long, when he is texting while driving.

But do we need a new law? Without total number of accident figures, one cannot determine how large the problem is? Is distraction involved in 80% of crashes? 50%? 5%?

Why not just enforce the existing laws? When a driver weaves in the traffic lane, cite him. Runs off onto the shoulder? Crosses the centerline (like, every day on Route 14 between Woodstock and Crystal Lake)? Rolls into an intersection before stopping at a stop sign or red light? Runs a red light? Runs up behind another car and has to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting it? Cite him.

What about the driver is using his phone and not disobeying any traffic laws? Simple distractions include adjusting the radio, turning windshield wipers on/off, looking at your speedometer. If direction and speed remain steady, the vehicle is still being operated safely.

Have you been involved in a crash or near-miss because you were distracted? Or because another driver was distracted?



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