Texting while driving lawyers in Chicago know that texting is banned in the state as part of distracted driving laws designed to reduce the risk of deadly crashes caused by drivers who aren’t paying attention. Unfortunately, despite such bans, drivers continue to text.
An article in the Chicago Tribune suggests that many of the motorists who are distracted are using their cell phones or doing other non-driving behaviors when they are stopped at a traffic light. While this may seem safer to motorists who believe that they aren’t at risk if they aren’t moving, this type of behavior is still against the law and can still lead to fatal crashes.
Distracted Driving Leads to Fatalities, Even if Your Car is Stopped
The Chicago Tribune discusses a familiar scene on city streets: a driver stopped in a left turn lane with a green light sitting at the light and not turning because she is looking at her phone. Many motorists do this because they view stopping at a traffic signal as a good time to read a text, check their email or otherwise pick up their Smartphone to kill the time.
This behavior, however, falls under Chicago’s texting ban, and a spokesperson for the Chicago Police has indicated that law enforcement will be cracking down on distracted driving even more next year. Even if a driver whose foot is on the brake can be fined anywhere from $90 to $500 as a result of the violation of the texting ban. The ban applies because drivers at a red light need to pay attention to when the light changes so they can react properly and maintain proper traffic flow.
On average, it takes 4.6 seconds to either read or send a text. In Chicago, “smart” signals that react to the presence of vehicles can change from red to green in less time. When a driver sits at a light that has changed and doesn’t move, this can mislead the traffic signal into thinking that the vehicles on one street have cleared and that it is now time to switch to permit the movement of cross traffic.
A delay of just two seconds before a distracted driver gets going, therefore, can lead to a problem with the traffic signals referred to as the signals “gapping out.” This occurs when pavement detectors believe that the queue has ended since the vehicle detection system on the smart signals determine the length of a green based on how many cars are present. When a vehicle fails to move forward because a texting motorist doesn’t go, a gap is created and the end of the green light is triggered, creating traffic congestion and sparking road rage, erratic maneuvers by drivers who are snapped out of texting by blaring horns, and evasive maneuvers by drivers who are stuck behind texting motorists and who try to get around and go forward.
While there is no specific data on exactly how many accidents have been caused by texting drivers sitting at signals, the Illinois Department of Transportation indicates that around 6,000 distracted driving accidents have occurred between 2008 and 2012, many of which involved a driver who was sitting at a traffic signal and texting while stopped in traffic. Preventing more of these crashes is a top priority and every motorist needs to commit to keeping the phone off even when stopped at a red light.