A crashed green Ford Taurus currently on display at Linwood Motors near the intersection of Fifth and 12th streets reminds drivers and passengers of all ages the dangers of distracted driving and driving while under the influence.
“The thing that really spurred my interest — if you go south of Interstate 55, there’s a car wrapped around a railroad crossing south of Interstate 57, which kind of makes you think about blowing through railroad crossings,” Masse said. “I and another officer thought with this new distracted driving law about putting up a display of our own. We kind of ran with it.”
Distracted driving is defined as texting, using a cellphone or smartphone, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading, using a navigation system, watching a video or adjusting a radio, CD or MP3 player while operating a motor vehicle.
At any given time of day, about 800,000 people are using hand-held cellphones while driving, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation show that: drivers using hand-held phones are four times more likely to get into a crash that causes injuries; 3328 Americans were killed in 2012 because of distracted-driving crashes; and among 15- to 19-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes, 21 percent were distracted by the use of cellphones.
In Illinois, nearly 6000 crashes occurred from 2008 to 2012 in which some form of driver distraction involving a cellphone was cited by police, according to the Illinois Transportation Secretary’s office.
While texting while driving has been illegal in Illinois since 2010, on Jan. 1, 2014, Illinois became the 12th state to ban the use of hand-held devices while driving. Under Public Act 98-0506, Bluetooth headsets, earpieces and voice activated commands are permitted. The only exemptions from the law apply to law enforcement officers or first responders; drivers reporting emergencies and drivers using electronic devices while parked on the shoulder of a roadway.
Under the new state law, there are also stricter penalties following crashes in which electronic devices were being used at the time of collision. Motorists who violate the law will be fined a maximum of $75 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense, $125 for a third offense and $150 for a fourth or subsequent offense. Penalties for distracted drivers who injure others or cause fatal crashes by the use of a cell phone would face a Class A misdemeanor, which could result in fines up to $2500 and less than a year of jail time. Drivers involved in fatal accidents could be charged with a Class 4 felony, which carries fines up to $25,000 and up to three years of jail time.
To get the law’s message across statewide, the Illinois Tollway, Illinois Secretary of State, Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois State Police and AAA have joined forces to launch “Drop It and Drive,” a public awareness campaign to educate drivers about the hand-held cellphone ban.
A little closer to home — not wanting to use tax dollar or funds from the police department’s budget, Masse looked for community sponsors to make the crash car display possible.
“I figured this would be a good way of getting some community involvement, getting people to start thinking about their driving habits,” he said. “And if we could do it with all donations from the community, I thought it would be a neater message.”
C&W Auto donated the crashed car. Linwood Motors donated the trailer the car is anchored to, which they purchased from Little Tractor. Massac County Drug Awareness Coalition and Holland Signs donated the banners — one with an anti-texting and driving message, one with an anti-drinking and driving message and another thanking the sponsors.
The car on display was not involved in a distracted or drunk driving accident.
“As of now, thank God, it’s just a car that was crashed and got donated to us,” Masse said. “Hopefully, we won’t be in the predicament to have an actual vehicle from such an incident. If we are unfortunate enough to have a tragic event like that, we probably would speak with the family and see if we could use it.”
When not at Linwood, the car will be set up at school and other community events in Metropolis.
“Our plan is when there are events at the three (city) schools, we’ll put it up in front of the school,” Masse said. “Even at the elementary school, though they’re not driving yet, their parents, brothers, sisters do. When there’s nothing going on student wise, our goal is to have it at Linwood so when people are stopped at the traffic light or driving through the intersection, they’ll see the display there, and it will probably reach a greater population.”