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Should Illinois stiffen the penalty for texting drivers?


Distracted driving is a growing concern here in Kane County, Illinois, and on roadways all over the country because texting while driving causes accidents. A Chicago Tribune editorial column recently addressed the problem, stating that the current penalty for texting Illinois drivers is not enough to deter this dangerous behavior. Perhaps it's time for Illinois to levy stiffer sanctions for distracted driving. Otherwise, the next time a texting driver presses the "send" button, it may be more than a message that is sent. The driver also could be sending a motorist to the hospital or worse, to his or her death.

The writer told of how he saw two motorists texting and driving while he was driving on the same road, unmindful that they could hit other motorists or pedestrians. He stated that he admonished both drivers by beeping his horn to catch their attention. All he got was an obscene gesture and a laugh.

Many drivers might react the same way to admonishment, taking distracted driving lightly until it causes an auto accident that injures or kills another motorist or pedestrian. The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration has stated that in 2010, nearly one-fifth of all fatal accidents are caused by distracted driving. While this percentage may seem small, the actual number is 3,092 deaths in 2010 and hundreds of thousands of injuries. Still, many motorists seem to be unable to curb this negligent, illegal and dangerous behavior.

In Illinois, a conviction for texting while driving can lead to a $2,500 fine and a year in prison if it results in injury. If a fatality occurs, the fine can approach $25,000 with a maximum three-year prison term. Perhaps first-time offenders who don't cause accidents should also face jail time, which might be enough to stop distracted driving.

Besides these penalties provided by the state, an injured Kane County resident also can file a personal injury lawsuit against a distracted driver to hold the driver legally responsible.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Texting drivers deserve more than a fine," John Kass, April 18, 2014

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