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Abels & Annes, P.C. Chicago Injury Blog

Illinois’s Cell Phone and Driving Laws Can Help Your Claim

Illinois law bans almost all use of hand-held cell phones while operating motor vehicles. All drivers are banned from texting while driving, and teens 18 years old and younger are not even allowed to use hands-free devices while operating motor vehicles.

Illinois is among the growing ranks of states that ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. While supporters of such bans contend it reduces driver distractions, opponents counter that talking on hand-held cell phones is no less dangerous than fiddling with a car’s audio system, eating burgers, or even talking on hands-free cell phones. These opponents say it is up to drivers to make sure they are driving safely, not up to police to pull over and cite otherwise safe drivers spotted using hand-held cell phones. Nevertheless, it has been illegal since 2013 to use a hand-held cell phone while driving in Illinois.

Despite the push to regulate cell phone use on the roads, research is murky as to whether requiring hands-free devices make roads safer. Researchers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which is funded by the insurance industry, have found little difference between drivers who use hand-held cell phones and those who use hands-free devices.

Oddly enough, these laws actually can help your accident claim. While Illinois law requires that drivers use hands-free technology, such as speakerphones, Bluetooth, earpieces, headsets, or hands-free systems integrated into the vehicle, a significant amount of research indicates that such hands-free technologies don’t really reduce the distractions caused by talking on cell phones while driving.

How Can Hands-Free Requirements Help Your Negligence Claims?

The assumption behind requiring people to use hands-free technology for cell-phone use while driving is that it is less distracting than holding a phone in your hand while talking and driving. Alas, research indicates this is not true. Thus, complying with laws requiring hands-free technology really does nothing to prove that a driver was not negligent if he caused an accident while on a hands-free phone.

All but a handful of states have laws that limit cell-phone use while driving. Most allow hands-free use. While these laws apparently have resulted in far fewer people using hand-held phones while driving, there is no indication that the laws make the roads any safer.

A National Institutes of Health study cites research from the British Medical Journal and New England Journal of Medicine that found the risk of traffic accidents was four times greater when drivers are involved in telephone conversations—and the increased risk was essentially the same for hands-free and hand-held phone use.

For many of the same reasons, the American Automobile Association is not impressed with the safety “improvements” offered by these systems. Researchers for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety tested the hands-free systems of most major car makers to determine how much of a distraction the systems themselves created. They found that the systems all caused distractions that actually were worse than talking on a hand-held cell phones and that high levels of mental distraction persisted for as long as 27 seconds after completing distracting tasks with these systems. These tasks included voice-activated hands-free phone calls, text messages, use of navigation systems, control of music systems, and other similar functions. Even when using the least-distracting systems, drivers remained distracted for more than 15 seconds after completing tasks.

The AAA researchers ranked distractions on a five-point scale, with a one being mild and five the maximum. AAA defines a distraction rating of two or greater as a potentially dangerous level. Talking on a hand-held cell phone is rated as a level two distraction. All of the hands-free systems scored distraction scores greater than two.

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety also found that banning texting or hand-held cell phone use while driving does little to reduce accidents. Citing a 2009 Highway Loss Data Institute study, the IIHS reported that such bans had no impact on insurance collision claim rates. The study looked at claims in three states and the District of Columbia before and after hand-held cell phone bans were enacted. There was no change in claims rates in two jurisdictions and statistically significant increases—albeit small—in the other two.

An Attorney Can Help You With Injury Claims

The results of these studies provide two avenues that could help if you have been injured in an accident in which the other driver was using a cell phone. If the cell phone was hand-held, the illegality of that conduct is strong evidence of the other driver’s negligence. If it was hands-free, ample studies show that, at best, hands-free use of cell phones is no less distracting than hand-held ones. Either way, an attorney can help you establish that the other driver was negligent.

Naturally, then, if you were injured in an accident with a driver who was using a cell phone at the time, consider hiring an attorney. You will need assistance to resolve the legal and factual questions in your favor. The complex circumstances surrounding personal injuries from accidents tend to require investigative and legal experience most people simply don’t have.

If You Were Injured in an Accident in the Chicago Area Involving Cell Phone Use, Contact the Personal Injury Attorneys of Abels & Annes

If you suffered an injury in an accident in the Chicago area where the responsible driver was using a cell phone, even hands-free, consult an attorney to determine your rights.

The attorneys of Abels & Annes can assist in protecting your rights when you are involved in such an accident. Reach us at (312) 924-7575 or through our website.

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