Illinois teen drivers like this one are risking serious injury in the name of … texting?

Illinois Teen Drivers are Risking Serious Injury in the Name of … Texting?

Everyone knows texting and driving is extremely dangerous. But did you know that right here in Illinois, our teens are even more likely to participate in this risky form of distracted driving than other teens across the country?

The recently released Youth Risk Behavior Survey indicates that approximately four out of every 10 student admits to texting and/or using their phone while driving. Out of the more than 100,000 students who participated in the survey, Illinois students had a slightly higher rate of admission than other students—42 percent.

One could argue that the statistic might be based on more Illinois youths’ being honest about their habits than others on average; but the fact remains that these are alarming statistics, particularly for one of the states that was first to recognize the dangers of texting and driving, resulting in implementation of a state-wide ban.

Youth Is an Important Factor

Young people are not only less experienced drivers — their age and level of maturity gives them a false sense of security, thinking that they are somehow insulated from tragedy and that bad things only happen to other people. That “everybody does it,” so they will be fine.

The tragic results of car crashes from texting while driving prove those theories to be completely invalid, but it can be difficult to get through to younger drivers on these points. And, if the rate of texting and driving is higher where they live, they are more likely to know more people personally who participate in the behavior, leading them to believe that this is an acceptable behavior, when it is not.

The Numbers Are Scary

The statistics are clear and frightening. Texting and driving puts everyone at risk: you, your passengers, and other drivers and their passengers. More than 3,400 people die each year as result of automobile accidents involving texting or phone use while driving, and almost 400,000 were injured. Teenagers are the largest group in every state to admit to texting while driving. People aged 18-34 are the most likely to die in crashes related to distracted driving.

How Does Illinois Law Protect Drivers?

In response to the findings, Illinois has strengthened their penalties for texting and driving, which go into effect in the summer of 2019. Instead of a first offense being a “nonmoving” violation, using your phone while driving will now be a moving violation, a more serious offense that stays on your driving record. With three incidents on your record, you could lose your driving privileges.

Some reminders of the law:

  • Using a cellphone while driving in Illinois is illegal, period.
  • Hands-free or Bluetooth devices are legal only for drivers over the age of 18.
  • Headsets such as headphones are prohibited. Only single-ear devices are allowed by law.
  • Drivers are permitted to make emergency calls, but only while parked.

How to Protect Your Teen Driver

If you are the parent or guardian of a younger driver, it is important to communicate with them not only about the legal penalties for texting and driving, but the real potential for serious injury and death that come from picking up the phone while driving. There is no message so important that it cannot wait until you reach your destination. If you or your child has been injured in an accident caused by a texting driver, seek help from a personal injury attorney with experience in car accident cases.