State after state is passing legislation aimed at strengthening the penalties for distracted driving in hopes of alleviating this serious public health concern. Still not convinced about how serious the problem is? Distracted driving was found to be the number one leading cause of fatal auto accidents in New Jersey for 2016, the last year such data were available. State lawmakers in Virginia, Florida, and Wyoming have already passed new laws just this year to try and stop this reckless behavior. Now, Illinois has added its name to that list with the passage of Illinois House Bill 4846 which makes texting while driving a more serious offense. Will stronger penalties be enough to convince drivers to put the phone down?

House Bill 4846 was approved by the Illinois State House of Representatives this week. It will now go on to the Illinois State Senate for ultimate approval before being made into law. Under the bill, the penalties for texting and driving will result in fines and court costs as opposed to a non-moving violation as it was previous classified. After being convicted of distracted driving three times in a 12-month period, drivers can now have their licenses suspended.

After the passage by the Illinois House, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White says “this important legislation will make our roads safer, adding that “with the increased use of technological devices, distracted driving has become a serious problem on the roads of our state and the nation. No driver should be texting while driving.”

According to data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated and at least one quarter of all crashes reported by police now involve distracted driving in some form. What’s it going to take to end this preventable serious public safety concern?