The Illinois Tollway will open six roadside “Safe Phone Zones” in April in an effort to eradicate the dangers of drivers who get distracted by their smartphones and GPS navigators behind the wheel.
“We want these oases to be places where our customers can stop and talk and text because they can be safe here, off the road and out of traffic,” said Illinois Tollway spokesperson Mike Stone. “They won’t be distracted because they won’t be driving.”
The idea is for drivers to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi at the oases to take care of their online business, instead of on the road. As they always have, the oases will also give tired drivers a place to rest and recharge.
Police say a Chicago driver likely was likely distracted by the GPS unit in his car when he drove it off the closed Riley Avenue ramp on the partially demolished Cline Avenue Bridge, killing his wife and severely injuring himself.
The Illinois State police say it’s not hard to understand how a GPS accident can happen, even with roadway markers and barricades in place.
“A lot of people put [the GPS] right up on the dashboard, right in their view and sometimes it distracts their view as well,” said Illinois State Police Lieutenant Bob Meeder
Distracted driving has been a factor in more than 6,000 crashes in Illinois since 2009, 33 of which were fatal.
And at any given daylight moment, 660,000 drivers nationwide are using cell phones or other electronic devices on the road, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“When people use their cell phone or want to text while driving, that’s a violation of all laws of human decency. Not only is their health and safety in jeopardy, but the safety of others is as well,” says Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.
Safe Phone Zone locations:
• Lake Forest oases on the Tri-State Tollway (I-94/I-294/I-80)
• O’Hare oases on the Tri-State Tollway (I-94/I-294/I-80)
• Hinsdale oases on the Tri-State Tollway (I-94/I-294/I-80)
• South Holland oases on the Tri-State Tollway (I-94/I-294/I-80)
• Belvidere oases on the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90)
• DeKalb oases on the Reagen Memorial Tollway (I-88)