Alderman Edward M. Burke (14th) proposed a restriction in an effort to stop what he referred to as an “epidemic” of texting while driving. Under the proposal, cell phones sold in Chicago after January 1 would be required to have a special feature that allows parents to block kids from texting while driving.
“This law would put parents in the driver’s seat when it comes to stopping teens from texting while driving,” Burke said via a written statement. “By giving parents the option of temporarily turning off their kids’ texting ability, we could potentially save many lives and many people from being injured on our roadways.”
Twenty-eight percent of young people surveyed between the ages of 16 and 19 have admitted to texting while driving.
Burke noted that in 2009, 5,474 people were killed nationally in what is termed “distracted driving.” An estimated 994 of those people died in traffic accidents while cellphones were involved.
The Chicago City Council has been at the forefront of the crackdown on distracted driving. As an example, in July 2005, Chicago became the nation’s largest city at the time to prohibit motorists from using cellphones without a hands-free device.
Three years later, the City Council banned texting while driving.
The new ordinance states, “No person shall sell, offer or expose for sale … cellular devices … unless said cellular devices are equipped with a feature that allows an authorized user to disable the data services while the devices are in a motor vehicle being driven at a speed greater than 5 miles per hour.”
This would apply to the seller. Violators would be punished by fines ranging from $100 to $500 for each offense. The ordinance would take effect on Jan. 1.
The ordinance was co-sponsored by Aldermen Michelle Harris (8th), Anthony Beale (9th), Ray Suarez (31st) and Richard Mell (33rd), and it also applies to other devices, including tablet computers and text pagers.
Suarez said (quoting Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White) “When you text and drive, no one is at the wheel.”
Texting while driving is already illegal in Chicago and around the state. However, 40 percent of those recently surveyed by the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority said they didn’t know about the ban.
More on this story concerning texting while driving can be found at the Chicago SunTimes story of May 4 titled “Ald. Burke calls for special feature to block texting while driving.”
According to the focusdriven.org site, one statistic highlighting the dangers of cellphone and texting use during driving is the following:
“Drivers using cell phones behind the wheel miss half of the information in their driving environment. Texting while driving increases your chances of a crash by up to 8 to 23 times.”
The Chicago, Illinois metropolitan area is already one of the most congested traffic areas in the country. Cellphone and texting, which distracts drivers, adds another risk to the area’s driving environment. Automobile Accident cases caused by cellphone and texting usage would typically be handled by Chicago area Personal Injury Attorneys.