Texting While Driving: An Analysis Who Gets TICKETED? and Who Enforces the Law IN THE 'Burbs?

Article excerpt

Byline: Lenore T. Adkins ladkins@dailyherald.com

One early Saturday afternoon last October, a 16-year-old Crystal Lake girl was driving her parents' Lexus through her hometown.

As she approached a curve on Country Club Road, she continued straight

across a lawn and into the corner of a garage on Wedgewood Drive, resulting in substantial damage to both the garage and the car.

Luckily, nobody was injured.

The teenager later admitted to using her cellphone to send and receive text messages just before the car left the road, police said.

Besides being cited for failure to reduce speed to avoid a crash, she was ticketed for improper use of an electronic communication device, a law that went into effect Jan. 1, 2010.

The law

Illinois' law makes several practices illegal. You may no longer read or send text messages while you're driving. Looking at a GPS, checking email, searching for a number and using the Internet are also no-nos.

If you're driving through a school or construction zone, you aren't allowed to even talk on your phone, unless you're using a

hands-free device or dialing 911.

Drivers younger than 19 aren't allowed to make or take calls on cellular phones.

Violations are $120.

Our analysis

We wanted to find out how often the new law was being enforced.

So we identified 11 of the larger towns across the Daily Herald's coverage area Algonquin, Arlington Heights, Crystal Lake, Elgin, Geneva, Libertyville, Naperville, Palatine, Schaumburg, St. Charles and Wheaton to get a sense of how often local police were writing tickets.

Using the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, we requested all of the citations issued in 2010 for texting while driving from the 11-town sample and from Illinois State Police Districts 2 and 15, which blanket the Daily Herald's coverage area.

Pointing to privacy laws, the Illinois State Police refused to release the race of those ticketed, so we could not include race as a factor in our overall analysis.

Crystal Lake police declined to release the age of the motorists it ticketed, so we excluded the city from our analysis altogether.

Libertyville was the only municipality in our sample that did not issue citations for texting while driving in 2010. Authorities there did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.

That left us with 308 citations, the majority of them issued by state troopers.

Our conclusions:

There are many ways to analyze the data, none of which points to a specific target group. The average violator is 28, but the oldest violator in our group was 72. More men than women were busted (57 percent to 43 percent).

Schaumburg was the municipality with the most tickets issued at 36.

If you drive the expressways, be mindful of I-55 at Cass Avenue in Downers Grove Township, where 12 tickets were issued.

More people were ticketed for the offense in May last year than in any other month.

Perhaps because the glow of your phone's screen is easier to detect at night, the most popular time to get hit with a ticket is between midnight and 1 a.m. In second place is the hour just before that.

But one thing our study showed us is that there is a wide range of opinions on whether ticketing or education is the way to go in attacking the problem of distracted driving.

Many philosophies

With 36 citations, Schaumburg ticketed more than any other municipal force in our sampling. Rather than targeting specific parts of the village, enforcement occurs all over town, said Lt. Kristine Provenzano, head of the traffic division.

"We've asked our officers to specifically watch for this," Provenzano said. "We're actively trying to reduce accidents and the enforcement ... goes hand in hand with these efforts."

With enforcement comes education. …