Sheriff’s Office stepping up enforcement of distracted driving laws across Cook County

“The numbers are absolutely staggering, as far as when you look at what the cellphone world has done to the driving world,” Sheriff Tom Dart said.

SHARE Sheriff’s Office stepping up enforcement of distracted driving laws across Cook County
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, right, was joined by Nick Smith, the chief operating officer of the National Safety Council, left, and Amy Mendelsohn, who has twice been victimized by distracted drivers, in announcing “Operation Deadly Distractions.”

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, right, was joined by Nick Smith, the chief operating officer of the National Safety Council, left, and Amy Mendelsohn, who has twice been victimized by distracted drivers, in announcing “Operation Deadly Distractions.”

Sam Charles/Sun-Times

In an effort to curb injuries and deaths that are “100% preventable,” the Cook County Sheriff’s Office will be ratcheting up enforcement of the state’s distracted driving law.

“The numbers are absolutely staggering, as far as when you look at what the cellphone world has done to the driving world,” Sheriff Tom Dart said Wednesday in announcing “Operation Deadly Distractions.”

“The two of them together have not been a good match at all.”

Sheriff’s officers will conduct weekly saturation patrols and sting operations across the county. The first were in Niles and Palos townships on Wednesday. It wasn’t immediately known how many citations were issued, but Dart said: “History has shown us we will be giving out a lot of tickets for people who are driving while texting or using their phones.”

In Illinois, it is illegal to use a hand-held cellphone while driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 3,166 people were killed in traffic crashes caused by distracted driving in 2017.

Nick Smith, chief operating officer of the National Safety Council, said distracted driving deaths are “100% preventable.”

Joining Dart and Smith was Amy Mendelsohn, a Ukrainian Village resident who’s twice been the victim of distracted drivers, most recently in 2013 when she was struck by a car while she was in a crosswalk just two blocks from her home.

“Distractions are not unavoidable,” Mendelsohn said. “It is a choice to prioritize our devices over the living. It is a preference of selfishness that endangers people that [drivers] are supposed to share the road with.”

Mendelsohn said the driver who struck her ultimately pleaded guilty to failure to yield and was ordered to pay a $100 fine, but never lost her license or was ordered to go to traffic school. Mendelsohn said she had to undergo surgery and nine months of physical therapy to recover from her injuries.

“This is not something that is innocuous,” Dart said. “Every single one of these calls can wait. Every single one of these text messages can wait. Peoples’ lives are in jeopardy here and we need to do something about it.”

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