Distracted Driving Targeted In New Illinois Law Effective July 2019

Distracted driving continues to be a major traffic safety issue nationally, as well as throughout Illinois and in Cook County.  There are many possible actions that can lead to a driver being distracted to the point where the driver is susceptible to a loss of vehicle control.   Two of the most problematical actions that frequently lead to distracted driving is the use of cell phones while driving as well as texting while driving.

A recent study, which is discussed in the April 2, 2018 post titled “‘Distracted Driving’ Seen As Top Threat To Traffic Safety” indicates that such driving was seen by motorists as the top threat to traffic safety.

There are many reasons why distracted driving is such a traffic hazard and often leads to loss of vehicle control and accidents.   Various reasons as to why distracted driving is hazardous, as well as various statistics, are further discussed on the “Distracted Driving Accidents” page.

Recently, a new Illinois law (further) addresses distracted driving.  The Daily Herald article of August 22, 2018 (“Why Illinois is making penalties for texting while driving tougher“) discusses the new law and various statistics regarding driver distraction.  An excerpt:

State Sen. Cristina Castro, an Elgin Democrat who sponsored the legislation, says penalties under the current law, which went into effect in 2014, haven’t done enough to curb motorists from using cellphones while driving. In 2017, about 9 percent of Illinois motorists were observed using electronic devices while driving, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. Nationwide, distracted driving caused 3,450 deaths in 2016.

also, with regard to the new law:

The stricter penalties, which go into effect on July 1, 2019, were signed into law last week. People who illegally use handheld electronic devices while driving will be given a moving violation on the first offense instead of a nonmoving violation. Motorists who rack up three moving violations within a year can have their driver’s license suspended.

An excerpt regarding this new law and its penalties regarding distracted driving, from the August 17, 2018 Chicago Tribune article titled “New distracted driving fine, bike safety rule signed into law“:

One law signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner imposes a harsher penalty on drivers caught using a phone behind the wheel without a hands-free device.

The new law, which goes into effect next July, makes the penalty $75 for a first offense, $100 for a second, $125 for a third and $150 for a fourth or subsequent offense. Under current law, drivers get a warning and no fine the first time.

Additional details regarding these distracted driving issues can be seen in the sources mentioned above.

Driver Distraction Awareness And Enforcement Initiative

Driver distraction continues to be a significant threat to safe travel both nationally and throughout Illinois.  While driver distraction can be caused by many different activities that divert the attention of the driver, among the most common reasons for driver distraction is operating a cell phone – and especially texting while driving.  As seen in various statistics, texting while driving is among the most hazardous form of “distracted driving.”  In many cases the resulting driver inattention can directly or indirectly lead to a loss of vehicle control and/or a traffic accident.

On this site, various issues (including legal, medical, and statistics) regarding distracted drivers and the accidents caused by their negligent actions are further discussed on the “Distracted Driving Accidents” page.  As seen on that page, statistics indicate the danger of driving while inattentive as well as the significant number of accidents that are attributed to driver distraction.  Additionally, a recent study (discussed in the “‘Distracted Driving’ Seen As Top Threat To Traffic Safety” post) shows that drivers consider “distracted driving” to be the top threat to traffic safety.

The April 22, 2018 Daily North Shore article titled “Head’s Up!  It’s Distracted Driving Awareness Week” discusses a recently announced Winnetka Police Department’s participation in the Illinois Distracted Driving Awareness Week, as well as department’s enforcement of applicable State of Illinois distracted driving laws.

An excerpt from the article:

The latest AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research found that:

  • Drivers who use in-vehicle technologies, like voice-based and touch screen features, can be distracted for more than 40 seconds when completing tasks like programming navigation or sending a text message.

  • Removing eyes from the road for just two seconds doubles the risk for a crash Distracted Driving Awareness Week is a coordinated effort between the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police (ILACP), AAA, The Illinois State Police, The Illinois Department of Transportation, the Illinois High School High School and College Driver Education Association (IHSCDEA) and nearly 300 local law enforcement throughout Illinois to educate motorists about the dangers of driving while distracted and enforcing the laws on Illinois’ roadways.

Additional details regarding these topics concerning driver distraction can be seen in the sources mentioned above.

Reconstruction Of The Golf Road Traffic Circle In Des Plaines

“Roundabouts” and “traffic circles” often cause confusion among motorists.  Many motorists are unaware of how to properly navigate through these.  There is great potential for accidents to occur, given the amount of traffic that flows through traffic circles, especially if vehicles “fail to yield.”

In the Chicago area, one of the oldest and most well-known traffic circles is in Des Plaines at Wolf Road and Golf Road.  High volumes of traffic flow through this area.

Starting today (April 3, 2018) there is a construction project to improve various aspects of this traffic circle.   These improvements are discussed in the IDOT media release of April 2, 2018 titled “Cumberland Circle reconstruction begins April 3.”  Two excerpts:

The Illinois Department of Transportation announces that a reconstruction project will take place at the intersection of Golf Road (Illinois 58) and Wolf Road, known as the Cumberland Circle, in Des Plaines beginning Tuesday, April 3, weather permitting. The project will reconstruct the existing traffic circle into a modern roundabout.

also:

The overall project will enhance safety and mobility at the intersection by providing clearly defined lane assignments and improved entry angles. The roundabout will feature a truck apron for buses and trucks, splitter islands to deflect vehicles into their proper lanes, and designated pedestrian and bicyclist crossings. The project also includes lighting and drainage work, as well new overhead signage.

Additional details can be seen in the IDOT media release as well as the Daily Herald article of March 30, 2018 (“Cumberland Circle reconstruction in Des Plaines beginning soon.”)

Crosswalk Safety Discussion Following Mount Prospect Bicyclist’s Death

On June 9, 2016, there was a bicycle accident in which a bicyclist was struck by a SUV while the bicyclist was in a crosswalk.  The accident happened at Central Road at Weller Lane in Mount Prospect.

The bicyclist was identified as Joni Beaudry, 55, of Mount Prospect.  She was taken to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge for treatment of her accident injuries, where she later died.

An excerpt regarding the accident, from the Arlington Heights Patch article of June 10, 2016, titled “Mount Prospect Biker Dies After Car Hits Her in Crosswalk“:

The driver of the Lexus—Hanna Burzynska, 56, of the 1800 block of Pebble Creek Circle, Elk Grove—was cited with failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk and failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident.

One notable aspect of this fatal bicycle accident is that the crosswalk had a flashing “beacon,” which has amber lights which flash and are supposed to be a safety feature as they alert drivers of the presence of people crossing in the crosswalk.

The accident and some related issues regarding crosswalk safety are discussed in the Daily Herald article (with video) of August 1, 2016, titled “Mount Prospect Cyclist’s death prompts questions about crosswalk safety.”

Two excerpts from this Daily Herald article:

The relatively new flashing beacon device is popping up at other intersections across Illinois. Jakubowski says it’s confusing for drivers and gives pedestrians and cyclists “a false sense of security” that vehicles will stop.

Traffic experts say the beacon has been tested and reduces crashes, but technology alone can’t stop collisions.

also:

“This death draws attention to the fact we need to change our driving behavior and habits and realize we need to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalks,” Mount Prospect Police Chief Tim Janowick said.

Additional details regarding this fatal bicycle accident – as well as the associated crosswalk safety issues – can be seen in a variety of media sources, including the Arlington Heights Patch and Daily Herald articles mentioned above.

Illegal Street Racing On Lower Wacker Drive

Street racing is dangerous, and has caused various accidents, some fatal, in the Chicago area over recent past years.  Street racing and these various accidents are discussed in the “Street Racing Accidents In Lake County.”

Recently, there have been increased awareness and efforts to curtail street racing and related activities on Chicago’s Lower Wacker Drive.

The issue of street racing on Lower Wacker Drive (and “Lower Lower Wacker Drive”) is discussed in a variety of media sources, including the July 10, 2015 dnainfo.com article titled “New Stops Signs Installed on Lower Wacker Drive to Slow Down Downtown Drag Racers” as well as the June 7 Chicago Sun-Times article titled “Can speed bumps muffle engine-roaring speed-racers on Lower Wacker?

An excerpt from the dnainfo.com article:

Neighbors for months have been calling police and Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) to report the weekend street racers. The speed racers for years have zipped through and near the lower levels of Wacker Drive, disturbing sleep and causing worry that someone will get hurt. Reilly, police and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) have since pledged to address the issue through a number of means, including potentially speed bumps and security cameras.

NEAR President Richard Ward described the stop signs as a start but told police Thursday that they aren’t nearly enough to deter the illegal races. Neighbors have said the weekend racers consistently scatter once police arrive on the scene, but return to racing as soon as police leave.

Additional details and possible updates can be seen in a variety of media sources, including the dnainfo and Chicago Sun-Times articles mentioned above.

“Reconstruction” Of Intersection At Damen, Elston & Fullerton

In Chicago, there are intersections that are considered “most dangerous,” as well as those that are considered “most dangerous to pedestrians.”  One intersection that has been the source of congestion, confusion, and various accidents is the “six-way” intersection at Damen, Elston and Fullerton Avenues.

The Chicago Tribune article of May 27, 2015 titled “Realignment of perilous Damon-Elston-Fullerton intersection set to start Thursday” discusses various aspects of this intersection, as well as plans to “realign” (or re-construct) the intersection to make it more efficient and safer.

An excerpt from the article:

The Damen-Elston-Fullerton intersection handles more than 70,000 vehicles daily and has ranked among the 10 worst city intersections for crashes since 1999, according to CDOT. In the current configuration, the short distance between traffic signals creates driver confusion and the skewed intersection with tight turning radiuses makes it difficult to execute safe turns, traffic engineers said.

The construction project will last into late-2016 and is projected to cost $60 million.

The CBS Chicago article (with video) of May 27, titled “Dangerous Bucktown Intersection Getting Major Realignment” also discusses the construction plans, and features maps of the current and proposed intersection.

Additional details and possible updates can be seen in the Chicago Tribune and CBS Chicago articles mentioned above.

Hazardous Driving Conditions Expected For Cook County

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has issued a news release (“Heavy Snowfall, Strong Winds to Create Hazardous Conditions Tonight and Super Bowl Sunday”) on January 31, 2015 regarding expected hazardous road conditions caused by high anticipated snowfall, including blizzard conditions.  While heavy snowfall is expected throughout Illinois, the highest level of snow should fall in the Chicago area, including Cook County.

A few excerpts from the release:

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) announced today that a winter storm anticipated to deliver heavy snowfall, strong winds and the potential for blowing and drifting snow will create hazardous driving conditions tonight and Sunday. Motorists should be alert for slick roadways, take extra precautions when driving and consider traveling only if it is necessary.

also:

National Weather Service forecasters are predicting 8 to 10 inches of snow across much of northern Illinois starting tonight and into Sunday, with 10 to 14 inches in the Chicago area, 3 to 6 inches in the central part of the state and 2 inches or less in southern Illinois. Gusty northeast windsSunday afternoon and evening could produce blowing and drifting snow, significantly reducing visibility. Throughout the day today, IDOT has been pretreating bridge decks and elevated driving surfaces that are susceptible to icing.

also:

“Public safety is every driver’s responsibility. Motorists should take every precaution, reduce their speeds and avoid unnecessary travel to help keep roads safe,” said state police Col. Mike Zerbonia. “Avoiding distractions and keeping extra distance between vehicles will help when navigating through snow and ice conditions.”

The news release also contains a variety of recommended safety tips, including a warning concerning “black ice.”

Additional details can be seen in the IDOT news release mentioned above, and details regarding the anticipated snowstorm, including blizzard and potential “whiteout” conditions, can be seen in the February 1 Chicago Tribune article titled “Blizzard warning expected for Chicago area; Hundreds of flights canceled” as well as the Naperville Patch article of February 1, 2015 titled “‘Extraordinary Dangerous’ Travel Conditions as Blizzard Warning Issued for Chicago Area.”

Warning Concerning Illinois Road Conditions

Yesterday (January 5, 2015) the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) issued a press release titled “Governor Quinn Directs State Agencies to Combat Severe Winter Weather.”  The release discusses various aspects of the cold weather, snow, and resulting possible adverse road conditions throughout Illinois.

A couple of excerpts:

The Governor also directed the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to ready more than 1,768 trucks and more than 3,700 employees in preparation of the anticipated snowfall overnight. The statewide fleet will help remove anticipated snow and ice on 1,245 state routes that will create hazardous driving conditions over next few days. Motorists are advised to be on alert for slick roadways and to take extra precautions when traveling.

“The Illinois Department of Transportation is fully prepared to respond to the winter weather heading our way,” Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Erica Borggren said. “While our top priority always is to make sure our roadways are safe as possible, we also ask the motoring public to pay close attention to the changing conditions. Please be prepared to reduce your speed and build some extra time into your schedules. During storms or when temperatures are extremely low, travel is not advised unless absolutely necessary.”

National Weather Service forecasters are predicting one to seven inches of snow will fall across the northern half of Illinois starting tonight and into Tuesday morning. Bitterly cold air with wind chills approaching 30 below are forecasted across the entire state through Thursday, significantly reducing the ability of salt to melt snow and ice, particularly during the overnight hours. Throughout the day today, IDOT has been pretreating bridge decks and elevated driving surfaces that are susceptible to icing.

also:

The Illinois State Police (ISP) are warning motorists to plan accordingly and make safety a priority by driving at a safe speed, allowing plenty of distance from other vehicles to safely maneuver, ensuring vehicle lights are functioning properly, watching for snow removal equipment and exiting the road to a safe location if driving conditions become too hazardous.

“Motorists should take every safety precaution while driving during extreme weather conditions, so that they arrive and depart to and from their destinations safely,” ISP Director Hiram Grau said. “Reducing speed, avoiding distractions and paying attention to emergency vehicles—especially when roads and interstates are icy and visibility is reduced—will make driving conditions safer.”

The above-mentioned press release also says that Illinois motorists can check the latest road conditions and road closure information at www.gettingaroundillinois.com.

In addition to the above warnings, given the cold temperatures, anticipated high winds, and recent snowfall, ice and/or “black ice” conditions might also be present.  “Black ice” conditions have been the cause of many car accidents, and this issue has been discussed on previous posts, including that of January 6, 2014 titled “Black Ice Hazard On Roadways.”

Chicago Initiative Regarding Illinois Crosswalk Laws

The City of Chicago has launched an initiative to “crack down” on motorists who are not yielding the right-of-way to pedestrians in crosswalks.

Two articles discuss this pedestrian safety initiative.  The first article is the Chicago Tribune article of July 2, 2014, and is titled “Chicago cracks down on drivers ignoring crosswalks.” The second article is the July 1 dnainfo.com article titled “Beware, Drivers — and Cyclists:  City Launches Crosswalk Crackdown Campaign.”

An excerpt from the dnainfo.com article:

The city on average sees about 3,000 accidents a year in which cars strike pedestrians, resulting in 30 deaths, according to Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld. She called that “unacceptable” and set goals to reduce crashes by 50 percent over the next five years, and ideally eliminate pedestrian deaths in 10 years.

“Our goal is to increase safety, reduce pedestrian and vehicle crashes and overall make Chicago a safer city,” Scheinfeld said at the first of 60 planned “enforcement events” at Clark Street and Germania Place Tuesday.

An excerpt from the Chicago Tribune article:

Motorists are required to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks under a state law that took effect in 2010. The law, which carries a possible $120 fine in Chicago and up to $500 in some other jurisdictions, replaced a requirement that drivers yield to pedestrians and stop when necessary.

Chicago police last year issued more than 1,200 tickets for failure to stop for pedestrians at crosswalks, officials said.

Additional information and possible updates concerning this Chicago pedestrian safety initiative can be seen in the Chicago Tribune and dnainfo.com articles mentioned above.

Pedestrian Safety

The Lisle Patch.com published an article on June 12, 2014 titled “Are America’s Streets Designed for Death?”  The article discusses various aspects of pedestrian deaths, including statistics and causes of pedestrian deaths, as well as recommendations as to improve pedestrian safety.  The article also references various resources, such as Smart Growth America’s May 2014 “Dangerous By Design 2014” report (pdf.)

Notable excerpts from the Lisle Patch article include:

Streets designed to maximize speed for cars have created a dangerous world for pedestrians, a new study argues.

From 2003 to 2012, more than 47,000 people, many of them children, were hit and killed while walking outdoors. An estimated 676,000 were injured. Meanwhile, the number of adults who said they walked for transportation grew 6 percent from 2005 to 2010.

Within the Smart Growth America’s report mentioned above, there are many statistics with regard to pedestrian safety, characteristics of dangerous roads, and related issues.  On page 11, the following statistic is found:

Indeed, more than half—52.3 percent—of the 45,284 pedestrian deaths (for which roadway classification data were recorded) over the last decade occurred on arterial roadways.

As well, on page 27, speed as a factor in the number of pedestrian accidents and their severity is discussed.  An excerpt:

Nationally, speeding is a leading cause of preventable deaths, causing nearly one-third of all traffic fatalities each year, or close to 10,000 lives. Speeding not only increases the likelihood of crashes with people on foot, it increases the probability that those crashes will cause injuries that are far more serious.24 At 20 mph, the risk of death to a person on foot struck by the driver of a vehicle is 6 percent. At 30 mph, that risk of death is three times greater. And at 45 mph, the risk of death is 65 percent—11 times greater than at 20 mph. When struck by a car going 50 mph, pedestrian fatality rates are 75 percent and injury rates are more than 90 percent.

Additional details concerning the issue of pedestrian safety, statistics, and related issues can be found in the Smart Growth America’s report mentioned above.