Older drivers use phones while driving too - WEEK.com: Peoria-area News, Weather, Sports

Older drivers use phones while driving too

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A 25 News investigation finds older drivers are just as likely - and in many cases more likely than younger drivers - to ignore state law and drive while on the phone.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found 10 people are killed each day in crashes where distracted driving is a factor.

And they're not always behind the wheel, or even in a vehicle.

According to NHTSA, in 2016 there were 562 non-occupants (pedestrians, bicyclists, and others) killed in distraction-affected crashes.

That same agency found that sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for :05 seconds.

And, at 55 mph, thats like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. (nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving)

We rode along with Illinois State Police Sgt. Ross Green April 23 on a distracted driving enforcement run through Pekin.

They used a spotter on the ground who repeatedly caught drivers diving into their phones when stopped at an intersection.

"Did I do something wrong?", one woman asked Sgt. Green
"Well, the reason why I did stop you is you were on your cell phone," he said.
"Oh, but I had it on speaker," she offered.
"You were holding it in your hand though, right?" asked Green.
"Yeah," she said.

That was the pattern we saw over and over: adult drivers either choosing to ignore the law or actually believing they were in compliance.

"And really, if people would stop and listen to what they're actually saying, it doesn't matter if you're sending of receiving or maybe just looking at something on Facebook or Instagram, you're still taking your mind off the roadway," Green said. 

Statistics obtained by 25News show that 10% of all ISP District 8 tickets given out are now for distracted driving.

"You were on your cell phone," Green said after pulling over a man in a pick up truck.
"Well, I just answered the phone," he said.

In one year, these state police officers saw a jump of more than 33 % in the number of distracted driving contacts.

The problem is, the digital activity usually betrays you.

"Everything is time stamped," Green said. "All you have to do is look and see when that Snapchat was recorded and sent and it shows that you were actually distracted while you were driving. They're not going to be able to disprove that data evidence. The whole purpose of the law is to try to free up your hands so you actually have no device in your hand as you're driving."  

On this day, 14 tickets were issued for $120 dollars apiece: 9 women, 5 men. 
60 percent of the offenders were age 40 and over.

We also went to Normal and found a very relaxed attitude towards this potentially dangerous behavior.

"To be honest with you, I feel I'm experienced and I can kind of get away with it, even though I shouldn't," said Tylon Mcallister, 28.
"I see it from everybody," said Michael Beavers, 46.      

Home of Illinois State University, Normal police also spent two weeks in April on distracted driving enforcement.

They wrote 379 of those tickets.

Again, most were women, written up 33 % more often than men.

One third of the violators in Normal were in their early to mid-20's.

"I do distracted drive a lot. but I think I'm pretty ok with it. But everybody says that. I shouldn't do it at all. I know it's bad," said Jaelen Davis, an ISU sophomore at age 19.

Jaelen also told us that his friend got two distracted driving tickets in one week!

"(it's) Hard to resist. I mean, these little devices do everything," Ryan Fiala, 36.

"If you hear that ding, you just grab it. Or, literally just opening your phone and looking at it. I definitely don't do it as much anymore," said Molli Aldrich, an ISU student at age 21.

"To me this has to rank very high because we are seeing a prevalence, an uptick in crashes," said assistant Chief Steve Petrilli, who found April's numbers alarming.

"We have accidents with drivers hitting poles, signage, bicyclists, pedestrians. We've had some of those kinds of issues too," Petrilli said.  

And even in a college town, older drivers are still getting that $120 reminder.

25News found more than a dozen drivers written up last month in Normal were 60 years old and higher.

One ticketed driver was between 71-75 years old with another between 76 and 80 years old.

Asst. chief Petrilli says the awareness campaigns aren't enough.

"But we still had 379 tickets so we've got to find a better way," Petrilli said.  

In Bloomington, more experienced drivers again ended up with tickets.

But here, equal numbers of men and women were ticketed.

Over six months, 25News found only two violators were under the age of 20 in Bloomington.

But 1/3 of the distracted drivers knew better: they were age 40 and up.

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