Urbana Police Report Eight Cases of Cell Phone Use Or Texting During Traffic Accidents in Past Year
Talking or texting on a cell phone was cited as a factor in eight traffic accidents in Urbana over the past year.
Urbana Police compiled the data, as required by a city ordinance that levies heavy fines against drivers when cell phone use or texting is a factor in an accident. The ordinance also bans all texting while driving. Not all offenders cited in accidents were driving cars --- in one case, a bicyclist was using his cell phone when he turned in front of a motorcycle.
The eight cases noted by police total less than one percent of the 1,082 traffic accidents reported in Urbana from July 1st of last year to June 30th of this year. But Alderman Charlie Smyth, who opposes any and all cell phone use while driving, says the data is still useful.
"They're interesting in that it's possible to actually enforce the ordinance," says Smyth. "Granted, it's after the fact, after an accident has happened. But I think doing this sends a message. We need to publicize it. The fact that there's a 750-dollar fine associated with this, I think, is really important."
The city's maximum fine of 750-dollars when cell phone use contributes to an accident is ten times what a new state law banning texting while driving will impose. Urbana Police Chief Michael Bily says officers will use their own discretion when deciding whether to levy the local or state penalties. The new state law takes effect January 1st.