Evanston police say traffic accidents in the city have declined since the city imposed a ban on hand-held phone use while driving.

Accidents involving injuries dropped 14.5 percent and accidents of all types declined 17 percent from 2009, the last full year before the ban was adopted, to last year.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, who sponsored the ban said she attributed the reduction “in large part to our police traffic unit’s vigilant enforcement effort.”

Graphic from City of Evanston.

Illinois law bans texting while driving statewide and has banned cell phone use in school and construction zones, by those under 19 years of age and those with a learner’s permit, as well as school bus drivers.

Some other area municipalities that have joined Evanston in seeking to curb distracted driving include Chicago, Winnetka, Highland Park, Lake Forest, Deerfield, Waukegan and Glencoe.

These municipalities now have some form of ban on cell phone use while driving. Statewide, there are now 76 communities that ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. Evanston’s ordinance also bans texting while driving and prohibits web browsing or listening to voice mail while driving. The city ordinance permits drivers to talk on the phone while driving if they use a hands-free device.

The National Safety Council (NSC), says there have been 380,669 crashes so far this year nationwide involving texting drivers.

Texting while driving has now replaced drunk driving as the number one cause of teenage deaths on the road in the U.S. according to research by the Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York. They found that more than 300,000 teens are injured and more than 3,000 die each year as a result of texting while driving. In comparison, 282,000 are injured and 2,700 teenagers are killed as a result of drunk driving.

“What should concern all of us is the next generation of drivers who have grown up watching adults operate phones and cars at the same time and won’t know to put their phone down when they take the wheel. The lesson for all of us:  just drive.  No call or text message is more important than the life of any other driver, pedestrian or cyclist,” Grover said. 

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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