Distracted driving crackdown begins


Anyone who drives knows that people talking, texting and generally being distracted by cellphones while driving is an epidemic on our roads.

And those distracted drivers can be a danger to themselves and others.

A new law that went into effect in Illinois last week will mean that drivers caught using a cellphone will now face tougher penalties. Those caught texting and driving will now be issued a moving violation instead of a warning. That means it will go on the driver’s record.

Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle and Oregon Police Chief Darin DeHaan answered some questions about the new law, and the problem of distracted driving.

Question: How is the new cell phone law different than the old one?

Answer:  DeHaan – “The new law includes enhanced financial penalties as well as making the offense a moving violation which will go against the offender’s driving record.  I know a lot of people assumed that in the past holding the phone away from their ear while talking on the speaker was not a violation. In fact, since the cellphone law passed you have always been required to be hands free. I think with the recent update in the law people are now being educated that they cannot hold their phones while driving. The law does not make an exception allowing you to hold your phone while you are stopped at a stop light either. We see this quite often and enforce the law on those violators as well.”

VanVickle – “It raises the fine amount an additional $25 and will affect your insurance much like any other moving violation. It also makes any use of a cellphone a chargeable offense. This means even sitting at a stop light and using your phone you in violation. The only exception is to place an emergency 911 call.”

Q: How big a problem is distracted driving?

A: VanVickle – “Distracted driving continues to be a significant problem. Not only does law enforcement see violations every day, but so does the motoring public.” 

DeHaan – “We feel drivers are distracted by many things, cellphones, make up, eating food while driving, and reaching for various items in the vehicle. Distracted driving is a large problem and we need to get the public to understand they put themselves and others at great risk when they drive while distracted.”

Q: Are cell phones the biggest cause of distracted driving?

A: DeHaan – “As stated above they are one of many distractions, but certainly when people hold and manipulate cellphones it takes their eyes, and mind off the road where they should be. I think that often people continue to rely on these devices not only to fill moments of boredom throughout the day, but we are also training themselves to immediately respond to them when they alert us. I would challenge everyone to use the do not disturb or silence options on their cell phones when they drive so they are not distracted or enticed to pick up their devices when an alert goes off.”

VanVickle – “The busyness of our culture is the biggest problem with distracted driving. Cellphones just happen to be the most readily available item to take our attention away from the responsibility of driving.”

Q: Are you hopeful this new law will make roads safer?

A: VanVickle – “I think these changes will certainly help much like the seatbelt law changes have done in the past.”

DeHaan – “I am hopeful that those who have not taken this law serious before will start taking it serious now that it is a moving violation. I am hopeful that the number of accidents by distracted drivers declines significantly. “

Q: How is your department attacking this problem?

A: DeHaan – “I have made distracted driving a priority for our patrol division. They have been encouraged to enforce cell phone violations when they see them.”

VanVickle – “Our deputies continue to enforce distracted driving laws and will continue this enforcement not only on a daily basis but with continued directed patrols.”