A Dangerous Loophole in Cell Phone Laws: Onboard Infotainment Systems

infotainment, Rolling Meadows traffic violations lawyerBy now, most drivers are aware that using a cell phone while driving is a dangerous proposition. Public awareness campaigns around the country have been urging drivers for years to put their phones down when behind the wheel for the sake of the safety. In addition to being unsafe, using a hand-held cell phone while driving is also illegal in many jurisdictions, including Illinois. If you are caught using a hand-held electronic device for talking or texting, you can be cited and fined up to $75 for a first offense.

Understanding the Law

That statute that governs the use of cell phones while driving in Illinois actually applies to a wide range of “electronic communication devices,” including personal digital assistants (PDAs), electronic tablets—such as iPads—laptop computers, and of course, “hand-held wireless telephones.” The law expressly states that the limitation on the use of electronic devices while driving does not apply to GPS devices, navigation systems, or any “device that is physically or electronically integrated into the motor vehicle.”  Unfortunately, systems that fall into the last category have become increasingly popular in recent years, and the dangers are only growing.

The Advance of Technology

In just a little over a century, the American automotive industry has progressed from Ford’s Model T car in 1908 to self-driving vehicles produced by several different companies. Today, the average automobile is equipped with dozens of features, including multiple airbags, proximity alerts, and even assisted braking systems. Higher-end vehicles also generally feature a large touchscreen in the middle of the front console which allows drivers and passengers to access navigation systems, control satellite radio, and even make phone calls while driving. These so-called “infotainment” systems are intended to make the driving experience more efficient, but they are also creating new hazards.

According to a study commissioned by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, up to one-third of U.S. adults use infotainment systems on the road. Most drivers use them for fairly innocuous reasons, such as playing music or getting GPS directions, but it is not really the purpose that is the problem. Infotainment systems generally present a large amount of information on the screen at any given time.

When playing music from a satellite radio channel, for example, the screen may display the artist’s name, the name of the song, the album name, the year it was released, the name of the channel, the channel number, the genre of music, and more. Processing all of the information takes time. In fact, the AAA study found that the average infotainment system user is distracted mentally and visually for up to 40 seconds per instance. Most experts estimate that a driver who is texting while driving is only distracted for about five seconds at a time.

Distractions Affect Driving Performance

While it is not technically illegal to use an onboard infotainment system while driving, the distraction that it causes could lead to a traffic ticket anyway. It is easy to lose track of your speed, traffic signals, lane markers, and even other vehicles when your attention is elsewhere. A few seconds are all it takes to break a traffic law and to end up with a citation.

If you have received a ticket for a traffic violation, you may have options to keep it from affecting your driving record. Contact an experienced Rolling Meadows traffic violations attorney to discuss your case today. Call 847-253-3100 for a free consultation.





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