In reading the news this morning, I saw a post by fellow Injury Board member, Steven Gursten.  The post discusses a new Michigan bill that would increase the speed limit to 80 MPH.  The new bill, if passed, would effectively increase speed limits across the state.  Gursten asks if arriving to a destination sooner is really a priority – over human life?  It cannot be denied that that as vehicle speeds increase, the chances of a car accident likely increase.

As one study by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety:

“Relation of Speed and Speed Limits to Crashes” by Susan Ferguson, Ph. D. (June, 2005), concluded:

Increases in speed limits also increase the severity of crashes, serious personal injuries and the risk of a driver being killed.

Also, if a car crash were to occur, the higher the speed of the vehicle the more likely death or serious injury may result.  I should note that this isn’t always true.  I have had the pleasure of representing countless injured individuals involved in both Illinois car accidents and Missouri car accidents who have been injured in low speed crashes.  These types of crashes cannot be discounted.  Just like with all statistics, they don’t always apply and I have seen first hand how a low speed or “minor impact” crash can completely change someone’s life.

We have to ask ourselves, however, if increasing the speed limit helps or hurts us?  Sure, it may move traffic faster and get the rushed people to where they need to be faster.  But what about the negative implications?  We are now in a time where despite all of the warnings, people (especially teens) continue to drive distracted whether checking GPS, changing a radio station, or texting or talking on the phone.  Drivers in Illinois will soon have to face this distracted driving issue head on.  Kudos to Illinois!  Until now, it was only illegal to drive while holding a cell phone in a construction zone.  That will soon change to state-wide driving regardless of whether on highway, roadway, construction or no construction.  Governor Quinn signed into law, on August 16th, a cell phone ban bill that will strictly prohibit Illinois drivers from holding their phone while driving.  The idea behind the bill?  It’s simple – you can’t use two hands to drive if one is holding a cell phone.  And if you are holding a cell phone, chances are your eye are on the phone and not the road.

The new bill provides that unless it is an emergency situation, any drivers seen holding a cell phone while driving, or even talking on a cell phone and not using a hand-held device, will be stopped and ticketed.  This is a great step towards eliminating distracted driving and car accidents caused by distracted driving.  At some point, legislators will have to address the fact that even if not holding a device, if you are talking on a cell phone while driving, at least a portion of your attention is on the conversation, not the roadway.  But for now, who will follow in Illinois’ footsteps?

I have said many times before and will say it again – I used to drive distracted.  Getting to know Joel Feldman and learning his daughter’s story (Casey Feldman) impacted my life and I try to do the same for others.  We all make mistakes – some have learned a very very hard way the dangers of distracted driving. I continue to learn each day. While driving with my 5 year old daughter in the car yesterday, I came to a stop light and I grabbed my phone while waiting.  My daughter noticed and said “mommy, you better watch the road!”  I have never told her of the dangers of distracted driving but she already knows it is there.  She was right.  I put my phone down even though the car was stopped.  You never know when you may have to react.  In fact, I put my phone in the back seat for the rest of the drive so that I couldn’t be distracted.

There are things that will continue to distract us – a good song coming on the radio, our coffee spilling in our lap, our kid yelling from the back seat.  We can all take steps to reduce our personal driving distractions in our own vehicles.

Lindsay Rakers, 2013

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