Local police focusing this week on distracted driving

CHAMPAIGN — In an effort to bring attention to the dangers and consequences associated with distracted driving, local law enforcement agencies including the Champaign and University of Illinois Police departments will participate in Illinois’ Distracted Driving Awareness Week from April 24 to April 28.

From using a cellphone, to eating, attending to children in the back seat, or applying makeup – everyone can become sidetracked by a number of things while behind the wheel. This week, local police will be promoting safe driving practices and conducting city- and campus-wide traffic details, with a complete focus on distracted driving.

“Champaign-Urbana is well-known for an environment with a great mix of different modes of transportation,” said U. of I. Police Chief Jeff Christensen. “A distracted roadway user – whether it’s a driver, bicyclist or pedestrian – becomes a danger to everyone around that person. That text or email is just not worth the risk.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2015, 3,477 people were killed and an estimated 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. That was a 9 percent increase from the previous year.

Even as fatalities go up, fewer drivers recognize the dangers. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 77 percent of drivers thought distracted driving was a problem in 2015 – compared to 96 percent of drivers who thought the same in 2013.

The goal of Distracted Driving Awareness Week is to help further a traffic safety culture in Illinois and to reduce traffic fatalities and injuries resulting from distracted driving. As part of the city-wide traffic details, police officers will be issuing written warnings and citations to motorists.

The week is a coordinated effort throughout the state organized by the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police in partnership with AAA and with support from the Illinois State Police and almost 300 local agencies.