The Geneva Police Department would like to take this opportunity to address the issue of distracted driving and remind residents that it is now against the law to be holding a cell phone while driving.
Distracted driving has become a serious issue in Illinois. According to the Illinois Tollway Highway Authority, nearly 6,000 crashes occurred in 2008-12 where some form of driver distraction involving a cell phone was cited by police. Thirty of them were fatal.
At any given time of day, about 800,000 people are using hand-held cell phones while driving, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. And, drivers using hand-held cell phones are four times more likely to get into a crash that causes injuries.
This year, Illinois became the 12th state to ban the use of hand-held devices while driving. Highlights of the law include:
The new law bans hand-held cell phone use except in an emergency and allows only for speakerphones and headsets that feature voice-activated or one-digit dialing.
The new law imposes fines starting at $75 for drivers caught using a hand-held cell phone while driving. Drivers could pay $150 for repeat offenses and may eventually have their drivers' licenses suspended.
The new law imposes stricter penalties following crashes in which electronic devices were being used at the time of collision. A crash causing great bodily harm can earn a driver up to one year in prison and a fatal crash can result in a prison sentence of up to three years.
HOW TO AVOID DISTRACTED DRIVING
If you must talk on the phone, use a speakerphone or headset that allows for voice-activated or one-digit dialing. Both are allowed under the state's new hands-free cell phone law. Here are some other tips to avoid distracted driving:
• Turn it off: Shut off your cell phone before you get in your car, then stow it out of sight and out of reach.
• Stop first: If you have to make a call, pull over to a safe area, such as a rest stop or oasis, to make your call.
• Ask a passenger: Have a passenger make a call or respond to a text for you.
• Take control: Set climate controls and adjust seat and steering wheel before driving.
• Spread the word: Record a message on your phone that warns callers you're driving and will get back to them later – or sign up for a service that offers this feature.
• Be prepared: Program navigational devices or review written directions before you start to drive.
• Finish first: Complete your personal grooming, dressing and eating before hitting the road.
• Buckle up: Secure children and pets before beginning to drive. If they need attention, pull over before tending to them.
The Geneva Police Department greatly appreciates your partnership in doing all that we can to make the roadways as safe as is possible.