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Local cops back no-texting law but say it's hard to enforce
By Jamie Sotonoff | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/7/2009 12:00 AM | Updated: 8/7/2009 8:22 AM

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While they admit it won't be easy to enforce, suburban police officials widely support the new law signed Thursday by Gov. Patrick Quinn that will make it illegal to text while driving in Illinois.

"Can you still sneak it down under the wheel? Of course you can. Can we see it with X-ray vision? Of course not. I'm sure people will still find a way. But the law will decrease the number of people doing it," said Huntley Police Chief John Perkins.

The new law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2010, will make it illegal to write, send or read text messages, instant messages and e-mails on a cell phone or surf the Internet while driving. The ban includes personal digital assistants (PDAs) and portable or mobile computers, but does not include global positioning systems (GPS) or navigation systems.

Violations are set by judges but typically $75, and they're considered moving violations that go on an individual's driving record.

The law also makes it illegal for motorists to talk on a cell phone while driving through a highway construction zone or school speed zone.

Suburban police officials like the new law, because it will help reduce the number of distracted drivers on the road - one of the top causes of accidents in the suburbs, especially rear-end accidents.

"People continue to drink and drive, so certainly people will continue to text and drive," Barrington Police Det. Sgt. Kevin Croke said, "but you want to get the awareness out there as much as possible. Anything we can do to achieve safer roads is a good thing."

While they recognize it's not 100 percent enforceable and not the sole solution to the problem of distracted driving, it will help, police said.

Just as motorists noticed people texting on the road, so will police officers. Drivers who are focused on their phones are often oblivious to what's around them, including a squad car.

"At least, by having the law there, we might be able to enforce the real obvious violations," Carol Stream Deputy Police Chief Jerry O'Brien said. "If we can educate people to not do it while they're driving, that's the best thing. Maybe they'll think, 'Hey, there's a better time to do this."

Texting behind the wheel has caused a few accidents in Huntley this year, Chief Perkins said. While texting drivers involved in accidents might think they can get off the hook by throwing their phone aside or quickly turning it off, police can subpoena phone records, if necessary, to prove that a driver was texting.

Just having the law on the books is sometimes enough of a deterrent, added Mount Prospect Deputy Police Chief Bob Rzepecki.

"If we can stop a few people from texting while driving ... then it's going to be to our advantage," he said.