Don't be distracted

Don't be distracted

Laws restricting cellphone use by drivers are aimed at those who refuse to use common sense.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn continued to ratchet up the pressure on drivers to stay off their cellphones when he signed three new measures into law Friday. A state law banned sending text messages while driving a couple of years ago; cellphone use is prohibited in school zones; and the new laws continue to restrict motorists' use of electronic devices in certain situations.

A law that takes effect immediately makes it illegal to use a mobile phone while driving within 500 feet of an emergency scene and prohibits using a cellphone to take photos near emergency sites.

Two laws that take effect Jan. 1 include prohibiting the use of cellphones by drivers in all road-work zones and barring commercial drivers from any hand-held cellphone use, bringing Illinois law in line with federal regulations.

"These new laws will protect children and families and prevent dangerous trends such as speeding and distracted driving," Quinn said.

There is no question that use of cellphones, for whatever purpose, has become a growing threat on the streets and highways. You can see the problem every day just by observing your fellow drivers.

It's a shame that legislation is even needed. When you're driving a machine that weighs thousands of pounds, common sense should tell you that your full attention should be on driving. Unfortunately, those who drive while using their cellphones appear oblivious to the danger they pose to themselves and others. Further, news stories about cellphone-related fatalities seem to have little impact on people's habits.

The National Transportation Safety Board has characterized distracted driving as the "new DUI," with officials noting that more than 3,000 fatalities across the country last year involved distracted driving while talking on cellphones or sending text messages.

Hence the need for public education campaigns to change behavior — and laws such as the ones Quinn signed to help get the point across. For the sake of themselves and their potential victims, motorists would be wise to pay heed.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion
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