Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill into law that bans motorists from sending text messages while driving. Attending the bill singing ceremony at Northeastern Illinois University were Chuck and Gloria Wilhelm, parents of Matt Wilhelm, who died after he was struck by a woman downloading ring tones to her cell phone. Governor Quinn stated that the new law will “save lives and make the roads safer for our loved ones. We want everyone to know that distracted driving will not be tolerated in Illinois.”
The new measures will make it illegal to compose, send or read text messages, instant messages and e-mail on a cell phone or surf the internet while driving. The ban also includes personal digital assistants (PDAS) and portable or mobile computers. The ban does not cover the use of global positioning systems (GPS) or navigation systems.The governor also signed House Bill 72, which will make it illegal to use a cell phone while driving through a school speed zone or in a highway construction zone unless it is a hands-free device. The new legislation will go into effect on January 1, 2010.
Illinois joins a growing number of states and municipalities that have adopted bans on texting while driving. Driving while distracted is a serious problem: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 25 percent to 30 percent of reported crashes involve drivers not paying attention. This means that distracted driving is a factor in over 1.2 million vehicle crashes a year in the United States. Studies show that the risk of a crash or near-accident is 23 times higher for motorists who are text-messaging while driving. People using cell phones are much more likely to be in a crash involving personal injury.
The problem of distracted driving has prompted U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to convene a summit in September to study this issue. Senior transportation officials, elected officials, safety advocates, and law enforcement representatives have been invited to attend.