Point/ counterpoint: Texting and driving laws

By Jordan Radloff and Nicole Kain

Texting while driving law too stringent

Jordan Radloff | Contributor 

A law pertaining to distracted driving laws was recently passed by the Illinois General Assembly to change Section 5 of the Illinois Vehicle Code. The new law was put into effect on July 1 and set new fines for the violation of operating a vehicle while distracted by any sort of device. The change, which replaces a first offense warning with a $75 fine, is too harsh on drivers who only reach for their phone.

The law, as proposed in Public Act 100-0858, states that “violation of this Section is an offense against traffic regulations governing the movement of vehicles. A person who violates this Section shall be fined a maximum of $75 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense, $125 for a third offense, and $150 for a fourth or subsequent offense.”

Essentially, this update to Illinois law means that drivers who are pulled over for using their cell phones while driving will be ticketed without a warning, even if it is their first offense. This policy is too harsh, however, and is too unforgiving to offenders who are using their phones in a way that is quick and may not be detrimental to their concentration when operating the vehicle.

Drivers shouldn’t have to pay a $75 fine if they are spotted briefly holding their cell phone. A quick gesture such as fixing the GPS directions or switching the song on a music app shouldn’t result in a ticket. In the same amount of time it takes to adjust the air conditioning or the radio on the control center of a vehicle, a driver could also adjust setting on their handheld control center.

Being unable to use a very important communication device without having to worry about being pulled over and fined is an annoying hassle. Life moves fast these days. Getting to and from destinations in a vehicle, especially on time, can be very difficult without the assistance of a cell phone. The act of grabbing a phone for a quick second to turn on the speaker for an important phone call shouldn’t instantly label that particular driver as a criminal who needs to be fined.

This law is a step forward in helping prevent prolonged distractions such as drivers texting and reading on their phones while behind the wheel. Even so, holding a phone briefly does not pose as significant a threat to the safety of a driver as writing out long text messages.

“The only thing I use my phone for is music,” Spencer Hix, first-year engineering major and commuter student, said. “I turn it on before I leave and don’t touch it again till I get to the parking lot.”

The Northern Star attempted to contact local law enforcement to inquire if patrol officers would be enforcing the new policy and if there would be any degree of leniency in regard to fines. After one attempt, by voicemail, to set up an interview with the DeKalb Police Department and two voicemail attempts to contact personnel to interview from the University Police Department, they were unable to be reached for comment.

Distracted driving law improve for good

Nicole Kain | Contributor

As of July, the law for texting while driving have changed so drivers are now fined on their first offense rather than their second. Cell phone use while driving is becoming an increasingly significant issue as people today become more attached to technology. As your whole life moves onto your phone, it is becoming harder to set it down even for the short time you’re behind the wheel. This law is therefore beneficial, as it should cut down on the number of people driving while distracted.

“I think that getting fined for a first time is a good idea; however, I do not think it should be as substantial as a person’s second time,” Summer Linboom, first-year early education major, said.

The law is essentially staying the same in terms of the fine amount; the only change is the elimination of a warning for a first offense.

As of 2017, 19% of drivers who were on their phones were between the ages of 20 and 29. Additionally, 23% of those drivers were between the ages of 15 and 19, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

This information is especially concerning when compared to the 8% and 9% of total distracted driving incidents involving these respective demographics. Where the old law gave one free pass, young people in Illinois will now be forced to either keep off their phones or face a fine, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Many people do not seem to comprehend the severity of distracted driving, which claims the lives of over three thousand people annually, according to the CDC. While this is a smaller portion of the over thirty thousand distracted driving deaths that occur in the United States each year, it is the most easily avoidable.

A parent cannot avoid being distracted by their child fussing in the back seat, but checking your phone while driving is unnecessary.

The reason there are so many laws pertaining to texting while driving is not because it claims more lives than other forms of distracted driving; it’s because this is something so avoidable. This fine is meant to punish those who are knowingly and needlessly endangering the lives of those around them.

People who text and drive have already seen the damage it causes, yet still continue to think that what they are doing is harmless. When driving down the freeway at 70 mph, a driver travels 102.67 feet in one second. Even if you think you aren’t taking your focus off the road for too long, the car is still hurdling forward about 30 yards and you are completely blind to where you are going. This law has the capacity to greatly reduce the number of unnecessary deaths caused by reckless and distracted driving.