Fatal crashes caused by illegal cellphone use should carry penalties similar to those imposed on drunk drivers who kill, a suburban lawmaker says.
The (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald reports that Rep. Robert Marwick wants aggravated use of an electronic communication device to put an offender in prison for about 20 months as opposed to a minimal amount of jail time.
The Norridge Democrat says such distracted driving would then be a Class 2 felony rather than a Class 4. He predicts a drop in incidents like the one that accompanied stiffer penalties for aggravated driving under the influence.
“We made a huge dent in DUI prosecution when we raised the penalties to send a message to people: ‘Don’t do this — you’ll be sorry if you do,'” said Martwick, a former Cook County assistant state’s attorney.
He said when people decide “to respond to a text message while going 75 mph on our roads and do so without impairment, they’re making a conscious decision that places the life of others at great peril.”
Last fall, the Daily Herald reported that more than 1,000 people were found breaking the state’s requirement that cellphone usage be hands-free while observing 10 major suburban intersections from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. on a weekday.
Nearly two drivers a minute — or five drivers every three minutes — were illegally texting or talking on their cellphones, the paper concluded.
Martwick hopes to enlist support for his legislation from the Secretary of State’s office and the lobbyist group Active Transportation Alliance.
The bill has yet to be assigned to a House committee for a hearing.
The bill is HB3487.