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Cold Hinders Cell Phone Ban Enforcement — But a Crackdown is Coming

On Jan. 1, a new law took effect banning the use of all hand-held devices.

Credit: Joel Sartore/Getty.
Credit: Joel Sartore/Getty.
The extreme cold that's closed down schools — not to mention roadways — has also hindered police's attempt to enforce a new law banning the use of hand-held phones while driving.

Patch reached out to Plainfield police to see how many local drivers have been caught violating the new law, which took effect on Jan. 1. But according to traffic Sgt. Eric Munson, the subzero temperatures and icy roads have prompted police to put enforcing the ban on the back burner, at least temporarily.

"With all the snow this year, we're basically going from crash to crash," he said. "Another thing to consider is when you're trying to make a traffic stop on a snowy, icy road, it creates an unsafe situation."

The new law does, however, give police police more ability to crack down on distracted drivers, Munson said.

"We want to know what's causing our injury crashes," he said. In 2013, there were 81 injury crashes in Plainfield. Distracted driving — including talking on a hand-held cell phone or texting, which was banned in 2010 — was listed as a contributing factor in 13 of those.

The rest of the results break down as follows:
  • 27 - following too closely/driving too fast for conditions
  • 5 - impaired (drugs or alcohol) driving
  • 19 - failure to yield right of way
  • 6 - disregarding a traffic-control device
  • 11 - unknown/other factors

The numbers are likely skewed, however, by the fact that drivers aren't always honest about what contributed to the crash.

"The problem is, people don't tell police the truth," Munson said. " ... It's a big problem, but it's a very hard problem to analyze."

Enforcement can also be tough, since most people can spot a black and white police cruiser in time to put the phone down.

"As soon as they see a police officer, they drop the phone," Munson said. "They can typically see us before we see them."

When it comes to who's chatting while driving, the usual culprit may also surprise you, according to Munson.

"Everyone has a tendency to say it's the teenagers," he said. "Kid get a bad rap — it's usually the adults," Munson added, but noted that's due in part to the fact that there are more adults on the road.

While Munson didn't have any data available on how many drivers have been cited so far, he said he runs statistics twice per year. The first set will be released in six months, he said.

A special enforcement to crack down on scofflaws is also in the works.

"I'm just waiting for the weather to break," he said. "It will be aggressively enforced," Munson added, noting that IDOT grant funding could potentially help pay for special crackdowns.
Bad News Bears January 29, 2014 at 03:54 PM
The Plainfield police should ride shotgun in my car one day and they would see what I see. At least 10 people PER DAY ignoring the law and texting or talking without hands-free device. I understand that with all the icy roads, they are needed elsewhere. However, after we thaw out, this should be a real easy law to enforce. Doesn't seem like many have any qualms about doing it right out in the open
Nance January 29, 2014 at 04:38 PM
How about starting in school zones? Every morning and afternoon I see ALOT of people ignoring this law! Especially when the crossing guards are trying to stop traffic and people are taking away on their phones not paying attention. Utterly ridiculous and wrong when it comes to the safety of kids!
Ed Arter January 29, 2014 at 05:28 PM
@ Nancy--The main reason I posted earlier was to let those who think it's safe to use mobil devices when they are not actually moving--like when stopped at a light, know that you're still going against the new law---Stopped, in line at school, is a no-no unless the key is OUT of the ignition.
JB January 29, 2014 at 06:10 PM
Plainfield police are a joke- they only want to make money for their pensions. They are not interested in stopping crime
brian January 29, 2014 at 07:31 PM
Jb - Could not agree more. This new law is right up "Chief traffic ticket's" alley. Sweep everything under the rug and wait till it just goes away. (remember that "incident" on 143rd a few months back?) I say incident because we citizens are not able to handle the truth of what actually happened. Move along folks, nothing to see here...They will be sitting somewhere doing nothing but watching cars go by, waiting for someone to be on their phone. BTW, the law is great, long over due.

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