September 11, 2012
By Andy Shofstall and Hilary LeHew
WSIL -- State leaders are asking young drivers to sign a pledge in the fight against texting and driving.
Illinois banned texting while driving two years ago, but many ignore that law. That's why Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon was at John A. Logan College Tuesday to launch a new statewide anti-texting campaign. It encourages students to make a pledge never to text at the wheel.
"As a bike rider, I look at the face of the driver before I cross out in traffic and so often you see that they're distracted, looking down at their cell phone, and I wanna see more drivers with eyes on the road," said Simon.
AT&T and the Illinois Department of Transportation are joining state leaders for the "It Can Wait" pledge campaign.
Officers say they see way too many drivers and pedestrians are distracted by texting.
A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute says people who text while driving are 23 times more likely to be in an accident. But that risk and the law aren't shying drivers away from their phones.
Sergeant Amber Goddard says distracted driving is a problem in Carbondale. However, we all either know someone who still does it, or we do it ourselves.
"I occassionally text and drive, yes," said Dan Frey, 19, of Carterville.
"They were texting and on Twitter the whole five hours," said Shay Harris, 21, of Chicago. "I'm like, 'Oh my God I'm gonna die!'"
Goddard says texting while driving is a visual, manual, and cognitive distraction all at once.
But the law hasn't stopped drivers like Frey from reading or sending messages while behind the wheel.
"I don't do it if I'm on, ya know, the highway or the interstate or anything," he said. "It's mainly, you know, through town on roads lower speed limits. I know that's not an excuse or anything."
For some, it may take a real life experience to open their eyes. Harris says she doesn't even let her friends text and drive. She works with people who have suffered brain injuries and says many of them are the result of a crash from texting while driving.
"Everybody feels invincible, it won't happen to me, so you'll never know until it happens to you or someone that's close to you," Harris insisted.
SIU Police Officer Russell Thomas says it's even more noticeable on campus. He says drivers aren't the only ones texting in and around crosswalks.
"If the driver's texting, the pedestrian's texting...That's not a good mix," said Thomas.
Local police discourage texting and driving, but they also admit it's not an easy law to enforce.
"It is hard to catch somebody texting and driving because you don't know whether they're just on the phone or whether they're actually sending or receiving a transmission as the law says," said Goddard.
You can visit www.ItCanWait.com
to take the pledge to never text and drive.