Texting while driving has been illegal for three years, but drivers are still doing it, so the city of Morris is posting signs throughout the city to remind people of the law.
“It’s still a big problem. I still see it in school zones and I see it in everyday travel,” said Ben Wiechen, Morris traffic enforcement officer.
It is also against state law to use cell phones at all in school zones or construction zones.
“Hopefully the signs will raise awareness for people,” Wiechen continued.
The city has purchased 16 signs, eight that say “cell phone use prohibited in school zone,” and eight that say “No texting or electronic messaging while driving.” The Public Works Department started posting the signs Friday.
Morris Community High School, White Oak Elementary School, Shabbona School and Immaculate Conception School will each have two of the school zone signs in their areas, as well as one no texting sign, said Wiechen. There will also be four more no texting signs throughout high traffic areas in the city.
Because Saratoga School is on a state highway, the city cannot posts signs on Illinois 47 without a long permission process from the Illinois Department of Transportation.
The locations of the last four signs are still being decided. One is expected to be put on Fremont Avenue, and another on Lisbon Road/Street. One is being considered on east Washington Street as well.
Chief Brent Dite said the idea came from Wiechen when they were discussing ways to continue to decrease the city’s traffic accidents on roadways.
Your chances of getting into an accident while texting are one-fourth greater, said Wiechen. Reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds.
From 1996 to 2009, the city had an average of 530 accidents a year on roadways.
“That’s when we really took a different approach on how we address these accidents,” said Dite.
In 2010, the accidents went down to 358, 359 in 2011, and 342 in 2012. The decrease has been due to Morris police adding a traffic enforcement officer, adding traffic enforcement zones in the city with designated signs, and increasing education to the community, Dite said.
The signs will help educate those people who are still unaware of the new laws, and serve as a reminder for those who are.
“With the traffic enforcement program, education is a key component,” Dite said.
The chief said they looked at what other area towns did for their signs before purchasing their own.
Superintendent Teri Shaw, of Morris Elementary School District 54, saw the Public Works Department posting signs on Dupont Avenue Friday.
“It’s going to be a great reminder to hang up the phone and stop texting,” she said. “We have kids walking to school here . . . five seconds is too long to not be paying attention when kids are around. And a lot of the times the kids are not paying attention, so the drivers need to.”