Car Accidents and Cell Phones

The Illinois legislature recently acknowledged that distracted driving has become an increasing problem. As of the first of the year, a ban on the use electronic communication devices went into effect.

A car accident always happens at the worst time. Driving into the office to attend an important meeting or when running late to pick up a child from day care. Texting and distracted driving have unfortunately become a common cause of car and motorcycle accidents on Illinois roads.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that in 2012 driver distraction accounted for 3,328 deaths nationwide. A survey by the agency of young drivers found that 71 percent admitted composing an SMS or text while driving and 78 percent had read an incoming message. The consequences of distracted driving are serious and not fully appreciated by many drivers.

Illinois hand-held cell phone ban now in effect

Since January 1, 2014, it has been unlawful to use an electronic communication device while driving in Illinois. This includes a hand-held cell phone, tablet, or laptop computer. Drivers can still use global positioning or navigation devices integrated in the vehicle.

Law enforcement officers can issue a traffic citation for violations. Currently, the fine for a first offense is $75. The fine increases with each subsequent offense. The second violation results in a $100 fine and up to $150 for a fourth and all subsequent offenses.

Several exceptions exist for reporting emergencies and use of hands-free or voice-operated communication systems. Pulling off to the shoulder is allowed and a way to communicate via hand-held cell phone when necessary.

Liability in crashes

When evidence exists that an electronic communication device was used prior to an accident that causes serious injury, the violation becomes a Class A misdemeanor. If a violation leads to a fatal crash, the charge is a Class 4 felony.

Not only is using an electronic device a criminal offense, but there are also civil liability issues. An investigator can often access records and determine whether an electronic device was in use right before an accident. This stored evidence may show a driver was negligent.

Driver distraction is often the cause of a rear end accident in rush hour traffic, for example. These accidents have the potential to cause serious soft tissue injuries that are hard to treat and can alter an individual's life. Distractions also lead drivers to run red lights and strike cyclists and pedestrians. Catastrophic injuries are common in these crashes and sometimes even fatal.

If injured in an auto accident, seek medical attention immediately to ensure you receive proper treatment. Then contact a personal injury attorney who can investigate what happened. If a negligent driver caused the crash, monetary damages may be available to cover medical bills, lost wages and the pain and suffering that often come with recovery from a serious injury.

Keywords: car accidents, distracted driving