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Keep Your Eyes On The Road: July 1 Brings A Crackdown On Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is a modern epidemic, hazardous not only to other cars but also to pedestrians and cyclists.

Yet it’s often hard to resist grabbing that smartphone… just for a quick text or traffic check.

For those who need an extra deterrent, Illinois law is there for you: Beginning Monday (July 1), drivers caught using any electronic communication device will be handed a moving violation rather than a warning ticket on their first offense.

Three moving violations in a year, and a driver’s license will be suspended.

Violators also will be fined up to $75 on the first offense, $100 on the second, $125 on the third and $150 for all future offenses.

Hands-free use of mobile phones is still allowed in Illinois but not recommended.

While chattering with friends or giving Siri orders allows users to keep their eyes on the road rather than fumbling with keypads, it’s still distracting.

Even a moment of inattention at a stoplight mutes alertness.

Drivers may not notice the car angling into position for a wild maneuver or the bike snaking up from behind, and miss a chance to prevent a collision.

Other states are also tightening more permissive texting-and-driving laws in favor of stricter hands-free regulations for all mobile phone use in the car.

They, too, have found that mild laws are no match for compulsive phone use.

Those who profit from Americans’ screen addictions have offered users a few tools to help them cope.

A variety of apps, plus donot disturb features built into phones or offered by mobile service providers, can halt incoming notifications and lock screens during car trips.

These also can help teens, who are especially prone to distractions and have less experience with the potential consequences.

It’s not only drivers who need to change their thinking. Employers who expect workers to be constantly available and partners whose texts about what’s for dinner simply won’t wait will have to respect anew that transit time is off-limits.

Until self-driving cars take over, safety should take precedence over convenience and entertainment.

Of course, it’s still an option to use that hands-free system or pull over to the shoulder.

“In the amount of time it takes to simply look down and check a text, if your car is traveling 40 mph, it has already traveled half the length of a football field,” Sgt. Bill Rowley, Aurora’s public information officer, told the Daily Herald.

That means “if a child runs out on the road, there’s no time to touch your brakes.”

If the specter of moving violations and fines isn’t enough to inspire a change, maybe that simple image is.–Chicago Tribune