Cops Tweet on the Beat, But Not on the Street

Suburban police join Twitter as House bans texting while driving

Twitter is a social-networking and micro-blogging service that has taken the Internet by storm since it began in 2006. Users send and receive each other's 140-character updates, known as "tweets," via the web site and/or their cell phones.

Just about everyone can be found tweeting, including British comedian Stephen Fry, hosts Ellen Degeneres and Ryan Seacrest, actors Greg Grunberg and Ashton Kutcher, and -- yes -- even NBC Chicago.

Now one of Illinois' police departments may be the first in the state to join Twitter.

The Bolingbrook Police Department will send its Twitter followers updates that include emergency street closures, power outages, upcoming events, and crime alerts (for example, even more news on charges against former cop and colleague Drew Peterson).

"This is a great way for us to stay in touch with the community in near real-time," said Police Chief Kevin McCarthy in a press release.

But don't check your Tweets while driving.

The Illinois House has passed a bill Wednesday that would make sending text messages and surfing the Web while driving illegal.

The text messaging ban, which passed 89-27 and now goes to the Senate, could lead to jail time for a third-time offender.

"I don't want to go to another funeral and have a mother, a brother, a father, a sister, a grandmother or a child look at me and tell me about how one of their loved ones has died because they thought they could get away with texting a message," said state Rep. Tom Holbrook (D-Belleville), reports the Tribune.

Three months ago, Holbrook attended the funeral of a 20-year-old man who died in a car accident while text messaging his girlfriend.

"When you drive a car, drive it," said Rep. Bill Black (R-Danville), according to the Sun-Times. "If you can't live without your damn BlackBerry when you're in the car, put it away. How many people have to die?"

The Chicago City Council passed its own city ban on texting while driving last year.

Matt Bartosik, editor of Off the Rocks' next issue and "between blogs" blogger, is a texting pro... but never while driving.

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