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Evanston police have issued over 7,200 citations for handheld cell phone use while driving since enforcement of the ban began in March 2010 through mid-December of this year.

According to data provided by the department, the number of citations have steadily increased over the past four years; for example, citations issued between 2011 and 2012 increased by roughly nine percent. 

Years after local ordinances banned handheld cell phone use in cars in Evanston, Chicago and some other municipalities around the state, a state-wide ban is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. 

It’s difficult to determine whether or not Evanston’s ban, enacted in 2010, has decreased the number of auto accidents caused by distracted driving because this data point has only recently been included on state accident reports, said Evanston Police Cmdr. Jay Parrott, spokesman for the department.

Parrott estimates that about five accidents were caused by distracted driving last year — meaning the driver was either seen using a cell phone at the time the incident occurred or later admitted using the device.

But auto accidents overall are down from six months ago, he said.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, spearheaded efforts to ban handheld cell phone use in Evanston several years ago, and testified last April before the Illinois General Assembly in favor of the state-wide ban.

A runner and a cyclist, Grover said her passion for the issue stems from her own experiences.

“Over the years it seemed all my close calls were with drivers on cell phones,” she said.

As part of her testimony to the assembly, Grover pointed to a 17 percent reduction in all roadway crashes since before the ban was enacted in 2009 through 2012, and a reduction of 416 roadway crashes in the same time period. What’s more important, she said during her testimony, is a 14.5 percent reduction in injury crashes from 2009 to 2012.

“I think Evanston was way ahead of the game and I love the fact we were able to contribute to the discussion at the state level,” Grover said.

A city-issued citation for handheld cell phone use is a $50 ticket, Parrott said, whereas a state-issued citation will cost you about $75. Additionally, he said, a state-issued citation will count against a person’s driving record, but a city-issued citation does not.

“With a state-wide ban, the state law would mirror the Evanston law so to speak,” he said. This is a good thing because often when people driving through Evanston are caught using a handheld device, they claim they didn’t know it was illegal to do so in the city, Parrott said.

“[The state law] is going to assist us in not having to do as much enforcement and also give us the option to write the ticket on a state charge if need be,” he said.

But with the state-wide ban in effect, will the signs around Evanston’s borders informing drivers that handheld cell phone use is prohibited be taken down?

“To me, if we still have a law on the books that allows us to conduct enforcement, the signs should remain up,” said Parrott.

“Until we’ve actually changed the culture and don’t feel the need to put signs up, I hope we keep the signs up,” Grover said. “We still have a whole generation of drivers who have had a cell phone in their hands since they were 11 years old and don’t necessarily know how to put it away.”

And Grover is not done yet; she proposed a total ban on cell phone use — including non-handheld use — in Evanston about a year ago, but has tabled the proposal until she can garner more support.

“Part of changing the culture is changing the culture among policy makers,” she said.

But for now, Grover said she’ll “see how this state handheld ban works out.”

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5 Comments

  1. Kudos to Grover on her distracted driving work
    I appreciate Grover’s work on this issue.

    Irresponsible operation of automobiles can have potentially deadly consequences for innocent victims.

    Measures to punish distracted driving should be accompanied by other safety measures like better design of streets, a reduced speed limit and speed cameras.

    1. Hopefully turn signal enforcement
      I hope the police also step up enforcing the law requiring turn signals [140 ft. before the turn].
      A third of the drivers I see don’t use turn signals even when making left turns off of Sheridan, Chicago Ave., Ridge. You can’t even tell what they are going to do from the lane they are in, slowing down to indicate a turn, etc.. They just ‘do it with no warning even when traffic from the other direction is close or cars are following them. .

    2. Why are Alderpersons allowed to use Cell phones while driving?
      Why are alderpersons allowed to use cell phones while driving? Why didn’t Jane pass the law to prohit her use of her cell phone in her car. Will the state ban stop her from using her phone?
      I have to wonder who will be allowed to use cell phones under the state law?

  2. Hero
    That Grover is a real hero. I would be willing to bet that she is just like the majority of all progressive politicians, her work will not be done until she removes all the peoples’ rights. Especially those who do not agree with her.

  3. Bikers and Pedestrians
    Alderperson needs to expand the Banning of Cell Phone use while in transit to Bikers and Pedestrians. Include tickets and fines for Jaywalkers and Bikers(not obeying rules of road)

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