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Our View: Forcing drivers off the phone

Updated: April 11, 2013 6:55AM



How many of you drivers out there have had a near miss, or actually collided, with a vehicle whose driver was not paying attention because he or she was yakking on a cellphone? Let’s see a show of hands. Ugh, that’s far too many.

But we’re not surprised because distracted driving has become a real danger on America’s roads. In 2011, 3,331 people were killed and about 387,000 injured in accidents caused by distracted driving, according to federal statistics.

Of course, not all that mayhem resulted from talking or texting via cellphone. Things such as eating, drinking, grooming and adjusting the radio also are factors in distracted driving, but cellphone use is fast becoming the major reason for it.

That’s why we urge the Illinois Senate to OK legislation that would prohibit the use of a hand-held cellphone while driving. Motorists still could talk hands-free by using an earpiece or speaker phone. The House has approved the bill, as it did a year ago when the Senate failed to do so.

State law does not allow drivers to use cellphones in school and road construction zones and does not allow texting while driving, but there’s no statewide ban on handheld cellphone use by motorists.

That’s resulted in a crazy quilt of municipal ordinances, with 76 towns in the state, including Chicago, having a ban or some type of restriction on hand-held phones — creating a confusing situation for drivers.

“Everybody is driving town to town, and you don’t know where you can and can’t pick up the phone,” said state Rep. John D’Amico (D-Chicago), who’s sponsoring the bill again this year.

Under the bill, anyone committing three or more cellphone violations in a one-year period would have their license suspended — too strong a penalty, according to those who oppose the bill, who also view it as another example of government intrusion.

But traffic safety, and potentially saving lives, is much more important than personal convenience. You just don’t need to gab on the phone while driving. Pull off the road first. If you won’t, we need a law to protect us from you.



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