IDOT, Illinois State Police launch weeklong distracted driving crackdown

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SPRINGFIELD, Illinois(Illinois News Network) -- Put down the phone while driving.

The Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois State Police are promoting Distracted Driving Awareness Week in Illinois.

That means drivers will see a lot more police officers out on the roads, looking to make sure that they are paying attention behind the wheel.

"We take it pretty seriously, that’s not something that we really give breaks for...We’re going to pull you over, we’re going to get you,” says Officer Colin Hennigar from the Moline Police Department.

Swerving in and out of lanes and constantly looking down at your lap, Hennigar says are dead giveaways to a distracted driver.

“Sometimes you can even tell that their hands aren’t even on the wheel and you can see them kind of typing," says Hennigar.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is spending $500,000 to help local police departments across the state enforce distracted driving laws. IDOT Secretary Randy Blankenhorn said that may be the only way to get people to focus on driving.

"People understand that it is a problem, but they don't practice it," Blankehorn told reporters at the Illinois Capitol on Monday. "As I see people eating a cheeseburger, talking on the phone, texting. It is a death waiting to happen."

Illinois lawmakers are pushing a few resolutions this week, and at least one new law that would end the practice of giving people a warning on their first distracted driving offense.

Beth Moser with AAA Chicago said her group is also working with new drivers to make sure they avoid as many distractions as they can.

"In our work with teen drivers in the schools, we focus on being a safe and good passenger," Moser said. "Because for teens, the biggest distraction is that passenger – that other teen sitting next to them."

Illinois has laws that dictate how many passengers teens can have in the car at the same time. Just like the state has laws that prohibit holding a phone while driving and texting while driving.

But Moser said there's no appetite to ban passengers for eating or listening to music while driving.

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