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Put down the phone; distracted driving is a killer

April 26, 2018 GMT

I admit it. I have driven distracted at times.

Enjoying a nice sip of a sweet tea, eating a hamburger and reading or sending a text on my way home from visiting my mother in Indiana.

Sometimes I think about how I got from one point to the next. I don’t recall because my eyes were not on the road.

I then think about it and remind myself I could have crashed into the back of another vehicle, drove off the road or hit someone riding a bicycle or walking.

I’ve been fortunate. Others have not been.

There were 3,157 fatal crashes that occurred on U.S. roadways in 2016 that involved distraction, which is nine percent of all fatal crashes.

These crashes involved 3,210 distracted drivers, since some crashes involved more than one distracted driver, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

This week police nationwide are participating in the second distracted driving week.

Last year in Illinois, more than 18,000 warnings and citations were given for driving distracted offenses.

The week is part of the fifth annual National Distracted Driving Awareness Month “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” campaign.

According to NHSTA, each day 10 people die in distracted driving crashes.

Texting, whether sending or reading, takes a driver’s eyes off the road for 5 seconds, which is the equivalent of driving blind at 55 mph for the length of a football field (100 yards), according to the agency.

Among those 2016 fatal crashes, 444 were reported to have involved cellphone use as a distraction.

According to NHTSA, driving a vehicle while texting is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated.

And, don’t think it’s teens who are the biggest offenders of texting.

“Many people falsely believe that driving while distracted — especially when it involves cellphones — is a teen issue, but that’s just not the case, said Beth Moser, Director of Public Affairs for AAA.

“Many young-and-older professionals use their phones to ‘multitask’ when they drive and really need to heed the warnings.”

According to NHTSA statistics, of the 51,914 drivers involved in fatal accidents in 2016, 12,335 were between the ages of 20 and 29 as compared to 3,323 in the 15-19 age group. Cellphone distraction was the cause of 159 fatal wrecks among 20-29 age group drivers while 59 were in the 15-19 group.

It is against the law in Illinois to use a handheld mobile device while driving. A first violation fine is $120.

The penalty for a violation of this law results in a moving violation that will be recorded to the motorist’s driving record, as well as fines and court costs which will be determined by a judge.

A driver who is convicted of three moving violations in a 12-month period is subject to a driver’s license suspension.

Distractions are not limited to drivers.

In 2016, there were 562 non-occupants (pedestrians, bicyclists and others) killed in distraction-affected crashes.