One could fill a telephone book with newspaper editorials over the years opining about the dangers of texting while driving.

Yet it is still too commonplace on our roads.

We look all the time through car windows to see motorists tapping away or scrolling. Unlike with driving under the influence, texting while driving doesn't have a social stigma, despite mountains of evidence showing distracted driving can be just as lethal. Fines and penalties by and large don't reflect the serious risk.

That's starting to change in Illinois.

House Bill 4846, signed into law last summer by then-Gov. Bruce Rauner, carries a $75 fine for using a mobile device. More importantly, a first-time offense is now considered a moving violation, meaning it appears on a driving record. Get three and your license could be suspended.

The rule started July 1.

You have free articles remaining.

Become a Member

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has suggested hiking that amount to $1,000 if someone gets hurt.

That get-tough approach is a clear step in the right direction. Finally, laws are starting to catch up with technology.

New York was the first state to ban hand-held cellphone usage while driving. That was in 2001, before the explosion of smartphones, in-vehicle touchscreens and other devices that demand our unblinking attention.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates 25 percent of police-reported crashes involve a driver on a device. The American Public Health Association says about 78,000 people have died in crashes caused by distracted driving since 2000.

Because there is no national texting-while-driving ban, a patchwork of policies and rules exists across the country. In other words, it's up to all of us to address this problem.

Until distracted driving carries the same social stigma as drunken driving, crashes will keep happening.

Get Breaking News delivered directly to you.

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Load comments