Chicago Car Accident Attorneys Comment on Call for Stiffer Penalties for Distracted Drivers Who Cause Fatal Crashes

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The attorneys at Coplan & Crane weigh in on a news article detailing a lawmaker’s proposal to beef up penalties related to deadly accidents involving illegal cellphone use.

Drivers who cause fatal accidents while illegally using their cell phones should not be treated differently in court than drivers who cause fatal accidents while intoxicated.

An Illinois lawmaker has suggested deadly accidents linked to illegal cell phone use should result in penalties similar to those imposed on drunk drivers who cause fatal crashes. This proposal should be taken seriously by the legislature, according to Chicago personal injury lawyers at Coplan & Crane.

Attorneys Gregory F. Coplan and Benjamin A. Crane of Oak Park-based Coplan & Crane commented on an AP story published March 7 by the Journal Star of Peoria (“Illinois lawmaker wants stiffer penalties for distracted drivers who cause fatal crashes”).

According to the Journal Star, the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald reported that Rep. Robert Marwick wants to beef up penalties for aggravated use of an electronic communication device. His proposal calls for putting illegal cell-phone use offenders who cause fatal accidents in prison for about 20 months. Currently, they face a minimal jail sentence. The proposal also would make such distracted driving a Class 2 felony rather than a Class 4.

Attorney Coplan said the proposal, if adopted, would likely save lives.

“As experienced personal injury attorneys, we have represented victims of distracted driving accidents and families who lost loved ones,” Coplan said. “These are incredibly tragic cases. Lives are shattered because some driver thought using a cell phone while driving was more important than paying attention to the road ahead. At Copan & Crane, we fully support strong legislative efforts designed to stop people from engaging in dangerous behavior while driving.”

Attorney Crane noted that scientific studies have found that texting or talking on a cell phone is comparable to driving while drunk.

“Drivers who cause fatal accidents while illegally using their cell phones should not be treated differently in court than drivers who cause fatal accidents while intoxicated,” Crane said. “In fact, there is evidence that driving while texting may be even more dangerous than driving while under the influence of alcohol. People who make careless and reckless choices must be held responsible for their actions.”

According to a Feb. 27 article in CapeGazette.com, an expert in cellphone technology says talking on a cellphone, even if it’s hands-free, is similar to driving drunk. (“Expert: Talking on phone just as dangerous as driving drunk.”)

Ben Levitan, a former engineer for major cell phone companies who also serves as an expert witness in court, said talking on a cell phone is like driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08. Drivers with 0.08 BAC are viewed as legally drunk in Illinois and other states. He added that texting while driving is even worse, according to CapeGazette.com, with research showing that texting behind the wheel is six times more dangerous than driving with a BAC of 0.08.

Attorney Crane said tougher laws—combined with education—can reduce the number of distracted driving accidents. Illinois law bans drivers from texting while behind the wheel and requires that cellphone use be hands-free.

“We’ve seen decreases in the number of drunk driving fatalities over the past several decades, thanks in part to harsher penalties for offenders, and awareness about the tragic consequences of drinking and driving,” Crane said. “We hope to see a similar trend in reducing the dangers of using cell phones or smart phones while driving.”

Coplan and Crane said victims who are injured, or families who lose loved ones in distracted driving accidents, have a right to seek compensation from the negligent individual. They said lawyers can help victims hold the responsible individuals accountable and send a message that careless or reckless behavior behind the wheel won’t be tolerated.

About Coplan & Crane
Serving clients in Oak Park, Chicago and all of Illinois, Coplan & Crane handles a wide range of cases, including car accidents, truck accidents, bus accidents, railroad accidents, workplace injuries, dangerous products, medical malpractice and birth injuries. The law firm has a strong track record for obtaining large verdicts and settlements, including several, high-profile, multi-million-dollar settlements and verdicts. A free consultation is available to all interested clients. The law firm works on a contingency fee basis. That means people only pay if they win. If you need help after an accident, contact the firm today.

Coplan & Crane
1111 Westgate St
Oak Park, IL 60301
(708) 358-8080
http://www.coplancrane.com

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