Illinois still adapting to new distracted driving laws

Since Jan. 1, Illinois drivers are no longer allowed to read, compose, or send text messages in their vehicle, or to use their cell phone in construction and school zones.  For the moment, though, law enforcement officers are giving them time to adjust to the new measures.

Part of this can be explained by the fact that it is difficult to catch a driver exchanging text messages.  Some drivers are pulled over if a trooper notices they are looking down instead of looking at the road.  Troopers can even check a driver’s cell phone to see if text messages were exchanged moments before being intercepted.  Still, it does not give many results.

“We’ve issued fewer than five tickets for all new laws,” said Decatur Police Department’s Deputy Chief, James Chervinko.  State troopers have given about 25 citations since the beginning of the year.

Law enforcement officers are also more focused for now on educating drivers instead of enforcing the law.  Most drivers seem to be unaware of the cell phone ban in construction and school zones, and that the ban is in effect even after school hours or if there are no workers on site.

“Even though the construction workers are not present, it is to make drivers pay attention, so they don’t hit big potholes or construction barriers,” said Master Sgt. Shad Edwards, day shift commander for Illinois State Police District 10.

Drivers caught using their cell phone in a school zone are only receiving warnings for now.  But according to Edwards, the focus will soon shift from educating to enforcing.

“The troopers will be working in the school zones, looking for people using their phones,” Edwards said. “We will be enforcing the laws. They give us another tool to use, to get the word out on safety. I can guarantee they will have an effect in the future.”

Source:  Herald Review, March 20, 2010

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