This week is Distracted Driving Awareness Week in Illinois.

This week is Illinois Distracted Driving Awareness Week. Driver inattention is a factor in more than 1 million crashes in North America annually, resulting in serious injuries, deaths, and an economic impact. Every single time someone takes their eyes or their focus off the road – even for just a few seconds – they put their lives and the lives of others in danger. “Back when I was out in Washington D.C. working, every morning, you’d see people driving by, reading the newspaper,” Knox County Sheriff David Clague said. “The one that always slayed me was the lady driver who was putting her makeup on. That’s a scary idea. How many times as a parent have you turned around and said something to your child in the backseat? Even though that’s only two or three seconds from concentrating on the road, those two or three seconds can be deadly.” According to the Illinois State Police, the use of a cell phone while driving increases your chances of getting into a crash by 400%. Clague says when the law banning the use of a cell phone while driving was passed in Illinois, he would notice drivers at least, trying to hide their cell phone usage; but now: “It’s just blatantly. The cell phone is up to their ear, and their talking, and I don’t know what’s prompted that,” Clague continued. “You can’t drive a block without seeing someone on a cell phone. The hardest job in Law Enforcement is going to mom or dad and telling them their child had just been killed. So those individuals who continually abuse the use of the cell phone, illegally, they need to accompany the cops when they go to somebody’s house.” Current Illinois Distracted Driving Laws include: mobile phones may only be used in hands-free mode or wireless earpiece, and drivers under the age of 19 may not use a phone in any way while driving.  Breaking distracted driving laws in Illinois is considered a traffic offense, and first violation carries a fine of $75. Second violation has a $100 fine, $125 for third, and $150 for each subsequent offense. Causing an accident which results in injury while breaking Illinois distracted driving laws is considered “Aggravated use of electronic communication device”, carrying much harsher fines and penalties. Common sense tips to follow include: pulling over to talk on the phone, make adjustments to your seat, climate control, and mirrors before you start driving, don’t multi-task, pull over to care for children, and don’t eat or drink while behind the wheel. Clague says the Knox County Deputies did a traffic detail last week. In only four hours, the deputies recorded 71 moving citations and 55 warning citations for distracted driving. As the Illinois State Police say, “Stay alive and focus on the drive.”