(The Center Square) – A new report on distracted driving crashes in the U.S. brings bad news for Illinois.
The study looked at the total number of distracted driving crashes and fatalities in individual states and ranked Illinois among the worst for the second year in a row.
According to 2020 data, Illinois has the sixth-highest rate of distracted driving deaths per licensed driver. The state recorded 185 deaths in distracted driving crashes in 2020, nearly double the number in the much more populous state of California.
“Illinois has a long way to go,” said Leo Waldenback, co-founder of Zutobi, which produced the report. “I think Illinois needs awareness campaigns. I think Illinois needs a community of drivers that take responsibility and remind each other. I think making sure that people get the right education and understand the dangers of driving distracted.”
Zutobi is an online driver education resource that helps teach new drivers about safety while behind the wheel.
Waldenback said the data indicates handheld cell phone use is a specific factor in the most severe crashes. Speaking on a mobile phone while driving double crash risk while texting increases risk up to six times.
“If you’re looking at your phone, if you’re texting while driving, the severity of the crash increases,” Waldenback said. “We can see that these types of distracted driving crashes more often result in fatalities. It takes longer to react because the mobile phone takes so much attention from the road.”
He said more engaging and informative drivers’ education efforts are needed to help change behavior behind the wheel.
“What I see, a lot of students just want to study as little as possible to pass their permit test, but that creates really unsafe drivers,” Waldenback said. “We need to somehow create courses that students actually want to study because they are fun.”
Mississippi, California, and Nevada performed best in the study, while New Mexico, Kansas, and Louisiana ranked at the bottom.
Information and full data from the report can be found at Zutobi’s website.