QUINCY — Drivers who text behind the wheel will want to think twice about it come next summer.
People pulled over for texting while driving will face a moving violation on the first offense starting July 1, 2019, after legislation was signed into law last month by Gov. Bruce Rauner. The law currently calls for first violations of texting while driving classified as a nonmoving violation, while second and subsequent texting while driving violations are treated as moving violations.
Drivers convicted of three moving violations in a 12-month period are subject to suspension of their driver’s license.
Quincy police Lt. Jeff Nevin said it is at the discretion of officers whether a driver receives a written warning or is issued a ticket.
So far in 2018, the Quincy police officers have issued 26 tickets for texting while driving, 28 for using a cellphone use while driving and seven for cellphone in a school zone. Officers have also given out 26 warnings for cellphone use and 15 for electronic communication device use, which can be given for texting or talking.
Nevin said cellphone use with drivers has dropped, but there is much room for improvement.
“I don’t think people do it as much,” he said. “What we always tell people is pull over, make your phone call, send your text or whatever. Even a hands-free device is still distracting.
“If you’re distracted for even two seconds on the road and you go in the next lane, the area you cover in just that two seconds is pretty impressive.”
Adams County Sheriff Brian VonderHaar said the department doesn’t issue many tickets for texting while driving.
“But we’re a little bit different than a municipality like Quincy,” VonderHaar said. “In town, it’s a lot easier to spot that than traveling on a highway.”
VonderHaar said he supports that change.
“One of the most dangerous things you can do is keep your eyes off the road and be looking down at your phone,” VonderHaar said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that at least 25 percent of police-reported crashes involve a form of distracted driving. Texting while driving is considered among the most deadly forms of distracted driving.