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IDOT, state police to motorists: Drop it and drive

As part of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the Illinois Department of Transportation is making $500,000 in federal highway safety dollars available to nearly 100 local law enforcement agencies throughout the state to step up distracted driving enforcement through April 30.

“Too many drivers in Illinois engage in the deadly and illegal habit of using a mobile device while driving,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn in a press statement. “These reckless drivers are not only putting themselves at danger but also their passengers, other motorists or pedestrians. Put down the phone until you get to where you’re going. It’s simply not worth the risk.”

As fatalities on Illinois roads continue to increase, distracted driving is a growing concern for IDOT and other highway safety advocates.

Texting while driving is especially dangerous, because it takes your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road. It distracts the driver visually, manually and cognitively, putting everyone on the road at risk. Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent of driving blind at 55 mph for the length of a football field.

It is against the law in Illinois to use a handheld mobile device while driving. Penalties for violating this law include a fine of up to $75 for a first offense.

“We want to remind motorists that Illinois is a hands-free state,” said ISP Director Leo P. Schmitz in a press statement. “Please be mindful that motorists are putting their life and the lives of others at risk when they are driving distracted. Remember, a text can wait. Please keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. Your life and the lives of others depend on it.”

The Illinois State Police and AAA are joining IDOT in its effort cut down on distracted driving, along with the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and Illinois High School and College Driver Education Association.

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