It's been 10 years since Illinois banned texting and driving, but police say plenty of people are still doing it.

Last updated: 01-04-2020

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It's been 10 years since Illinois banned texting and driving, but police say plenty of people are still doing it.

It's been 10 years since Illinois banned texting and driving, but police say plenty of people are still doing it.
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PUBLIC SAFETY
It's been 10 years since Illinois banned texting and driving, but police say plenty of people are still doing it.
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DECATUR — A decade after Illinois outlawed texting and driving, Macon County law enforcement agencies and drivers say the lure of technology still causes some to ignore the law.
“Texting and driving is still a problem,” said Decatur Police Patrol Sgt. Brian Earles. “I mean, you can drive down a roadway in your personal vehicle and see lots and lots of people still texting on their phone in violation of the Illinois Vehicle Code.”
More than 1,000 people are hurt and nine are killed, on average, every day in the United States in incidents reported as involving a distracted driver, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Yet the practice remains relatively common. A study released earlier this year by Volvo found that 60% of Americans admit to texting and driving.
“If you're operating a motor vehicle, especially in the city, it is always wise to not be distracted while you're driving so you can make it to where you're going," Earles said.
Illinois first banned texting while driving on Jan. 1, 2010. Talking on a cellphone, other than a hands-free device, became illegal Jan. 1, 2014 .
And in July, Gov. J.B. Pritzker increased penalties for texting-while-driving violations that led to crashes causing "great bodily harm, permanent disability or disfigurement.” The measure gave the Illinois Secretary of State the authority to revoke or suspend the driver's license for a year and impose a minimum fine of $1,000.
The Chicago Democrat in 2019 also signed legislation that made all use of a handheld device while driving a moving violation. Any driver receiving three moving violations in a year is also subject to a license suspension.
“It has helped some, because you obviously have those individuals that, once the law was passed, then they readily accept it and go ahead and comply with it,” said Lt. Jamie Belcher of the Macon County Sheriff's Office.
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But not everyone gets the message.
“We also see them drive through red lights and stop signs,” he said. “And then we also obviously see the collisions that happen on perfectly dry pavement. We have a pretty good idea of what they were doing.”
The sheriff’s office now uses Tahoe vehicles that are taller, allowing for better view by officers, and that come equipped with Bluetooth for hands-free talking.
The sheriff’s office has issued a total of 101 citations and 411 warnings for illegal cell phone use while driving since 2010, according to Freedom of Information Officer Chief Deputy Adam Walter. Almost all of those happened in the past four years.
In 2016, there were 24 citations and 107 warnings issued; in 2017, 31 citations and 93 warning; in 2018, 24 citations and 53 warnings, and in 2019, 20 citations and 57 warnings had been issued as of last week.
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As of November, Decatur Police had issued 147 citations and 82 warnings in 2019, according to data provided to the Decatur City Council. Data from 2018 shows 170 citations issued and 165 warnings.
Law enforcement agencies, including the sheriff’s office, receive state grant funding for additional enforcement to catch distracted drivers and those under the influence, usually around major holidays. Officers are stationed at stop lights or corners with a lot of traffic, Belcher said.
“Traditionally, if you're just driving down the street and see somebody do what we call the ‘lane bop,’ or bouncing back and forth in the lanes of traffic,” he said. “Another telltale sign is we see at nighttime all of a sudden the interior of a car you're following lights up, and it goes directly to the person's ear or their face, we can see that from a pretty good distance.”
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While several residents who spoke to the Herald & Review said they have noticed fewer drivers getting distracted since the ban, they said it still happens frequently.
“It's been a little better,” said Janet Brownfield, 61, a resident of Decatur for over 30 years. “It's still happening and it's still dangerous. My phone's in my purse when I'm driving, so I have hands-free when I'm answering something, but I never text and drive.”
Connie Rigley, 63, she still encounters people distracted by their mobile devices “a lot.”
“You see them swerving and hit the curb and cause me to put my brakes on, which causes the people behind to (do so),” Rigley said. “I've never been in a wreck but it sure makes me very angry.”
From Baylie Wasley’s perspective, the legislation hasn’t had much impact. People are still taking chances.
“I don't think it's done anything, not at all. When you drive down the street you can tell there's people still on their phones,” said Wasley, 20.
Brad Wright Sr. said he still sees people talking on their phones, though not as often.
“The other day I even saw a police officer on his phone,” said Wright, 45. “I look down on it; I mean, I don't think they should be doing it.
“I don't think I should be doing it,” he continued. “But I am guilty of it sometimes.”
A look back at Decatur police through the years 
1990
1990: Curt Johnson and Kent Pope stop at the corner of Macon and Crea streets, the center of the neighborhood they patrol on foot. 
H&R file photo
1942
1942: Traffic Patrolman Arthur V. Travis was not a popular figure for motorists. When he was on vacation there was a sharp reduction of traffic arrests.
H&R file photo
1911
Third picture of 1911 police department: front row, Wilson, Royse, Kossick, Stone, Donahue; back row, Dayton, Harding, Imboden.
H&R file photo
1977
1977: Decatur Police Department shooting team include from left, Dave Cox, Gordon Bell, Leo Dauer, Tom Butts, Dave Leonard, Charles Boland and Dale Traughber. 
H&R file photo
1924
1924: Decatur Police Department are top row, left to right, mayor Elmer Elder, captain R.A. Thornell, C.P. Elder, assistant chief Scott Gulliford, Sgt. Fred Meece, John Fink; second row, W.M. Park, Con Doherty, Sgt. T.J. Collins, Sgt. Stephen Wood, Harry Lovejoy, C.E. Martin, George Geer and Frank Bunkle; third row, R.E. Pound, Ben Taylor, Frank Dennis, Carl Phillips, W.R. Adams, E.W. Larrick, Virgil Belcher, C.A. Dickerson; front row, D.E. Baucom, B.T. Perkins, J.H. Wiggins, C.C. Aydelott, chief Omer Davenport, Robert Hankins, W.M. Markwell, C.T. Allen, John Higgins, police matron Mrs. Myrtle Edwards. 
H&R file photo
1939
1939: This three-wheeled motorcycle, radio equipped, went into regular service. Harry Moss is in the driver's seat, Homer Ritchie sits on the rear compartment and Chief H.J. Schepper stands behind the machine.
H&R file photo
1911
One of three pictures of part of 1911 police department staff: McDermitt, Delaney, McDaniels, Pound, Brunsfield, Kemp. 
1951
1951: Decatur Police Department second shift include seated from left to right, Horace Hoff, Ed Speaker, Burns Long, George Jewell, Bill Fitzgerald and George Smith. Standing at Lt. Otto Salfeski, left, Sgt. W.E. Tapscott and Detective C.W. Henry. 
H&R file photo
1941
1941: Decatur Police Department from left to right patrolmen Clyde Freeman, Earl Myers, Charles Kemper, Arthur Travis, Cass Runyan, Sgt. Louis Rost, chief H.J. Schepper, mayor Charles E. Lee, Lt. C.L. Lycan, patrolmen Ralph Rutherford, Homer Ritchie, Harold Buechler and Frank James. 
H&R file photo
1960
1960: More modern appearance by 1960. Six officers in the front row are carrying billy clubs, which were later abandoned. 
H&R file photo
1934
1934: The new 85 foot tower which will carry aerial wires for the police broadcasting system was hoisted into place.
H&R file photo


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