A newly enacted law and proposed legislation awaiting further consideration reflect the growing dangers of distracted driving in Illinois and Missouri.
As of January 1, it is now illegal for all Illinois drivers to use a hand-held cell phone. Only hands-free devices are permitted any more. An Illinois law that prohibits all school bus drivers and drivers under 19 from using cell phones, either hand-held or hands-free, has been on the books for some time.
A state lawmaker from St. Louis has proposed a ban on texting for Missouri drivers of all ages. Current Missouri state law prohibits texting and driving for drivers 21 years and younger. While the city of Manchester, in suburban St. Louis, passed a law in late 2013 banning texting and driving by drivers of any age within its city limits.
Under federal law, commercial truck drivers are forbidden from using hand-held cell phones while driving.
As the use of cell phones have grown, so too have the casualties of distracted driving. According to a recent study by Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, texting while driving is now the leading cause of death among teens – surpassing drinking while driving.
Another study, conducted by researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and published in November 2013, shows that increasing deaths from distracted driving are not limited to motor vehicle occupants.
The researchers found that, from 2005 to 2010, the number of pedestrians killed by distracted drivers jumped 50 percent. The number of cyclists killed by distracted drivers increased some 30 percent. The researchers concluded that there is a definite cause-and-effect relationship between distracted driving and this rise in pedestrian and bicyclist deaths.
Legal and societal pressures may eventually reduce the number of distracted drivers in Missouri and Illinois. But when drivers act negligently and kill others, they should be held accountable for their actions. A victim’s loved ones in this tragic situation may want to consult an attorney to explore their legal options.