Friday, August 7, 2009

Illinois Bans Text Messaging While Driving After Death of Bicyclist

In September of 2006, 25 year old Matt Wilhelm was an Illinois bicyclist riding his bike on the shoulder of a downstate road. Matt was known as a conscientious and safety minded rider. He rode to the side of the road and always wore his helmet. But what Matt was unable to plan for was a teenage driver who swerved off of the roadway onto the shoulder and struck Matt on his bike. The teenage driver, by some accounts, blamed her actions on the fact that she was text messaging while driving and became distracted.

This is a horrific story and an unfortunate one that illustrates the dangers of text messaging while driving. Governor Quinn has signed into law Public Act 96-0130 banning "texting while driving." This law is known as "Matt's Law" in honor of Matt Wilhelm and was previously discussed in a post you can find here. The new law amends the Illinois Motor Vehicle code to ban not only texting, but also any "electronic message" such as instant messages, texting, e-mailing, or accessing an internet site.

The law provides some exceptions for police officers and truckers who rely on electronic information, but for the bulk of drivers in Illinois, if you are caught "texting while driving" you will face a ticket. Text messaging and other forms of distracted driving have been shown in study after study to greatly increase the risk of traffic accidents. These new laws are examples of the legislature appropriately addressing new technological issues in the interest of protecting the health, safety and welfare of its citizens.