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.