New distracted driving laws have local bikers hopeful for safer roadways

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- The National Highway Safety Administration reports distracted driving claims over 3,500 lives per year. Motorcyclists account for 14% of all traffic-related fatalities.

Many local motorcycle riders are hoping stricter laws will alleviate some of that danger.

“Any harsher penalties that do exist will not only help protect the motorists themselves, but also the other motorists, motorcyclists and pedestrians,” says Kegel Harley Davidson General Manager Eric Johnson.

These stricter laws include harsher penalties for those caught using their phone while driving.

Violators will now receive a moving violation for the offense, three moving violations a year result in a suspended license.

Johnson urges local riders to still take precaution when out on the roadways.

“Keep your head on a swivel and always look in as many directions as possible,” says Johnson. “[Motorcyclists should] know where their boundaries are and know where other traffic is.”

However, motorcyclists are not the only bikers on the road at risk.

“When I started riding there were no cellphones,” says road cyclist Steve Forss. “We didn’t have to worry about that until very recently.”

Forss has been road cycling for 35 year and is no stranger to the dangers of distracted driving.

“[Distracted driving] does go through your mind,” says Forss. “Once it is in your mind, it is hard to get it out.”

He is hopeful harsher penalties for the offense will make cyclists more comfortable on their rides.

“I think [the penalties] will get a lot more people out that may not otherwise get out just because of [distracted driving],” says Forss.