Police & Courts

Bill would increase texting and driving fines for serious crashes

Metro Creative
If signed, new legislation would increase the fine to $1,000 and create a one-year driver's license suspension for those convicted of using a cellphone while driving and causing a crash where someone suffers great bodily harm.
By Herald-Whig
Posted: May. 21, 2019 10:00 am Updated: May. 21, 2019 11:19 am

QUINCY -- Adams County Sheriff Brian VonderHaar said if deputies were dispatched to a report of a vehicle swerving in and out of the lanes more than a decade ago, it was immediately suspected to be an impaired driver.

"Now within the last 10 years, we don't necessarily look at it in that way," VonderHaar said. "The majority of those times now it's somebody that is probably texting, and that's why they're weaving in and out of lanes."

VonderHaar supports legislation that would increase consequences for distracted drivers in crashes that cause great bodily harm to at least one person.

The legislation sitting on Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker's desk would increase the fine to $1,000 and create a one-year driver's license suspension for those convicted of using a cellphone while driving and causing a crash where someone suffers great bodily harm.

Sponsored by Rep. Norine Hammond, R-Macomb, House Bill 2386 passed the House on a 82-24 vote, and it passed unanimously Thursday in the Senate. The bill was supported by the Illinois Secretary of State's office and the Illinois Sheriffs' Association.

"This day and age we are attached at the hip, or in this case hand, to our cellphones," Hammond said. "People need to understand that this can lead to grievous injury and even death while driving. It is simply not worth it."

Hammond introduced the legislation after a crash in her district involving a texting driver where a man lost a leg. The driver was only fined $75.

"It is my hope that by increasing the fine dramatically from the $75 it is now, we can get drivers to think twice before looking down," she said.

The National Safety Council reports that cellphone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes annually and nearly 390,000 injuries occur each year from crashes caused by texting while driving.

Sen. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, sponsored the bill in the Senate.

"There's never a time when a person is driving a car that a text can't wait," Tracy said.

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