Handheld Cell Phone Ban May Have Reduced Evanston Car Accidents

With Illinois considering a statewide ban on the use of handheld cell phones by drivers, the measures already enacted by individual communities are drawing attention. Three years ago, the Evanston City Council passed a handheld device ban in an effort to curb distracted driving accidents. Cell phones are considered a primary culprit in the nationwide increase in distracted driving fatalities. Texting while driving has garnered much of the attention, but any diversion of a driver’s attention from the road is a safety hazard. With three year’s worth of data available, it appears that Evanston’s ban may have been successful.

From 2009 to 2012, the total number of traffic accidents dropped 17 percent in Evanston. The number of injuries caused in car crashes fell 14.5 percent. It is impossible to determine if the drop was responsible for the drop in accidents, but Ald. Jane Grover pointed out that the measure likely raised awareness of the problem of distracted driving.

The Evanston Police Department wrote more than 7,000 tickets for violating the ban since its passage. The city was successful in collecting on more than four out of five of those tickets. The success of the measure may lead the City Council to consider a ban on all cell phone use, including through the use of hands-free devices, according to Grover. Ald. Delores Holmes replied that greater research would be necessary before she would support such a ban.

Source: The Daily Northwestern, “In 3 years since cellphone ban enacted, Evanston sees decline in crash rate,” by Jia You, 19 May 2013

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