Drop It and Drive program aims to cut down distracted driving - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Drop It and Drive program aims to cut down distracted driving

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JACKSON COUNTY - A new program in Illinois is hoping to provide law enforcement officers with the resources to catch distracted drivers, specifically those driving while on the phone.

National studies show drivers are distracted by a variety of things and now the Jackson County Sheriff's office is working to stop it in southern Illinois.

Captain Mike O'Leary says this cause of car crashes is relatively new, "Ten years ago, if you would have asked me about having to investigate distracted driving and consider that when I'm investigating a traffic crash I wouldn't have known what you were talking about."

O'Leary says distracted driving is becoming one of the leading causes of traffic crashes, just like DUI.

The Jackson County Sheriff's Department is participating in a statewide program called "Drop It and Drive". The program provides grant money to departments allowing them to increase patrols for drivers who might be distracted by their phones. 

According to a study by the National Safety Council, 3,000 people are killed every year due to distracted driving. While 70% of people surveyed say they know the risks, half of those drivers surveyed believe using the media in your car is safer because automakers installed it. But research shows whether it's a driver uses hands-free technology or not, the person is only paying attention to half of what's happening around him or her.

Officials say you're twice as likely to get involved in an accident if you are distracted. O'Leary points out there are more distractions than just talking and texting, "Just drive down a 4 lane highway, when you pass a car or a car passes you just glance over and see how many people that you see have their phone down below their eye level looking at it for whatever reason or looking at their GPS or messing with their radio its not just cellphones its any kind of distracted driving."

The fine for using a cell phone while driving in Illinois begins at 75-dollars and increases for repeat offenders. 

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