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What Is Distracted Driving?

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Distracted Driving is defined as doing anything that diverts a driver’s attention away from driving their vehicle. There are four types of Driver Distraction. They are as follows:

  1. Visual – Not looking at the road.
  2. Auditory – Hearing something that is not related to driving a motor vehicle.
  3. Manual – Touching something other than the steering wheel.
  4. Cognitive – Thinking of something other than driving.

The top 2 activities that make up Distracted Driving are texting while driving and using GPS while driving. It’s easy to see why these two activities are the most common Distracted Driving activities. If you are using your cell phone to send a text message you will have to take your eyes off the road and look at your cell phone. If you are using a GPS device on your cell phone or in your car, you will have to take your eyes off the road to look at your cell phone or the screen in your car. Using GPS while driving will force you to listen to something other than what is happening on the road. You will touch your cell phone or the screen in your car to send, respond, or read, a text message, or adjust the GPS coordinates on your GPS device. If you are sending a text message or using a GPS device your mind is being distracted by something that is not happening on the road. Texting and driving and using a GPS device satisfy all four elements of what is considered Distracted Driving.

Distracted Driving is considered a leading cause of death and personal injury accidents in the United States. In 2016, 3,477 people died in car accidents involving Distracted Driving. In addition to the deaths, Distracted Driving was responsible for more than 391,000 car accidents in 2016 alone. Texting and driving is probably the most common example of Distracted Driving. Studies have shown that drivers between the ages of 25 and 39 are the most likely to text while driving. The same studies have shown that young drivers who text and drive have the same reaction time as a 70 year old driver. There are estimates that 43% to 49% of young adult and teenage drivers text and drive. There is no doubt that Distracted Driving is a problem and legislators have enacted laws which attempt to curb Distracted Driving by imposing stiff penalties on drivers who engage in Distracted Driving. It seems like the public is onboard with legislative efforts to curb Distracted Driving. Polling suggests that up to 92% of drivers are in favor of State laws that ban texting while driving. Up to 74% of drivers support banning motorist from answering calls while driving.

On July 1, 2020, a new law went into effect in Illinois that greatly enhanced the penalties for driver’s ticketed for Distracted Driving. To see where the Distracted Driving laws are in Illinois, we need to see how we got here. Illinois first banned texting while driving in 2010. In 2014, the Distracted Driving law was amended to require the use of a hands-free device to make a phone call while driving. On July 1, 2019, the law was changed to make Distracted Driving a moving violation. Until then, a Distracted Driving ticket would only result in a warning. For the first time, fines were assessed for violations of the Distracted Driving law and license suspensions were imposed on motorists who receive three moving violations in a one-year period. July 19, 2019, using an electronic device while driving that caused an accident that results in great bodily harm, permanent disability, or disfigurement to a person can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor. A Class A Misdemeanor carries a potential penalty of up to one year in county jail and a maximum fine of $2,500. If the result of the accident is death, the motorist can be charged with a Class 4 felony. A Class 4 felony carries up to 3 years in prison.

The July 1, 2020 changes to the Distracted Driving law were, by far, the biggest expansion of the Illinois Distracted Driving statute. These changes have expanded the definition of a electronic device to include any type of electronic device including a smartwatch and a tablet. A GPS device is not considered an electronic device. The new changes do not allow a motorist to touch an electronic device while driving. You can still make a phone call but you cannot use a hands-free device that requires you to touch your cell phone. If your vehicle has Bluetooth capability and you can make a phone call using your cars onboard Bluetooth capabilities, you can make a phone call while driving as long as you are not touching any device. You can make make a 911 call in the event of an emergency, or you can stop your vehicle on the shoulder if you are in Park or Neutral. You can also make a call in a traffic jam if your car is in Neutral or Park. However, drivers under the age of 19 are not allowed to use their cell phones while driving under any circumstances.

A first or second violation of the Distracted Driving law carries a maximum fine of $1,000. A violation of the Distracted Driving law will add up to 30 points to your driving record which could lead to the suspension of your driver’s license. A third violation of the Distracted Driving law is a Class C Misdemeanor which carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a maximum fine of $1,500. Aggravated Violations of the Distracted Driving law now carries potential penalties which could result in jail time.

James Dimeas is a nationally-recognized, award-winning, traffic ticket lawyer, with over 28-years of experience handling traffic offense cases throughout Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, and Lake County. Recently, James Dimeas was named a “Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer in the State of Illinois for the years 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021” by the American Society of Legal Advocates. James Dimeas was named a “Best DUI Attorney”, a “Best DUI Lawyer in Schaumburg”, and a “Best Criminal Defense Lawyer in Chicago” by Expertise. James Dimeas was named a “Top 100 Criminal Defense Trial Lawyer” by the National Trial Lawyers. The National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys gave James Dimeas the “Top 10 Attorney Award for the State of Illinois”. James Dimeas is rated ‘Superb’ by AVVO, 10 out of 10, the highest rating possible for any traffic lawyer in the United States. The American Society of Criminal Law Attorneys named James Dimeas a ’10 Best Attorney for Client Satisfaction”. Attorney and Practice Magazine gave James Dimeas the “Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorney Award for Illinois”.

If you receive a cell phone Distracted Driving ticket, you can contact James Dimeas anytime for a free and confidential consultation. You can speak to James Dimeas personally by calling him at 847-807-7405.

Additional Resources:

Illinois Distracted Driving Law

Additional Blogs:

Can I Use My Cell Phone While Driving?, by James G. Dimeas, Chicago Criminal Lawyer Blog, May 25, 2021.

Scott’s Law. “Move Over” for Emergency Vehicles or Get a Nasty Ticket, by James G. Dimeas, Chicago Criminal Lawyer Blog, July 5, 2019.