On January 1, 2014, a new law went into effect that prohibits drivers from using their cell phones or similar devices to talk and/or text while behind the wheel. So if you decide to fight the odds and drive around with your phone connected to your ear or text while driving, you not only are putting your life and other lives at risk, but should expect to dig into your wallet for some hefty fines.
Violators will be fined $75 for a first offense and as much as $150 for repeat offenses as well as having a moving violation on their driving record. Three moving violations within one year can cause your license to be suspended.
A separate new law increases penalties for distracted drivers found to have caused crashes. Distracted drivers causing injuries, face up to a year in prison, and up to $2,500 in fines. Drivers involved in fatal accidents face fines of up to $25,000 and three years in jail.
Governor Pat Quinn signed the bill on August 16, 2013 stating, “Too many Illinois families have suffered because of accidents that could have been prevented. Anyone driving a car should be careful, responsive, and alert behind the wheel.” The law went into effect January 1, 2014.
Drivers can still talk on their cell phones while driving but they must do so hands-free which includes utilizing a Bluetooth, headset (see caveat below), earpiece, or speakerphone but the earpiece used must cover only one ear so as not to block your hearing altogether. If you need to use your phone for a phone call or text but can’t do so hands-free, then you are required to pull over safely and park your car before using your phone.
WHAT IS BANNED:
The new law bans drivers from using a mobile phone unless they use hands-free technology to communicate. A driver is allowed by law, however, to press a single button on a phone to begin or end a conversation.
• Drivers 18 years of age or younger are not permitted to use their smart phones while driving – regardless if hands-free or not.
• Drivers over 18 years of age must use a hands-free device while driving. Text messaging is prohibited.
• Handheld electronic devices used for communication are prohibited for all drivers to use.
• Drivers are prohibited from texting, emailing, using the Internet, taking pictures, or using their smartphone for any reason while driving.
• Drivers are not allowed to use their phones in school speed zones, construction zones, or road maintenance areas.
• Cell phones are banned from being used for any reason within 500 feet of an emergency scene while driving. This includes phone calls, taking pictures, texting, etc.
The law permits exceptions on the ban during emergencies, or if a driver is parked on the shoulder. A driver will also be allowed to use a hand-held cell phone if the vehicle is in neutral or park, and if the car is stopped because normal traffic is obstructed.
AROUND THE COUNTRY:
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 12 states along with the District of Columbia prohibit using hand-held cell phones while driving. A total of 41 states and the District of Columbia ban text messaging.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
For starters, turn off your cell phone. If that’s not possible, there are a number of wireless technology solutions that allow electronic devices to connect remotely. Some newer cars have built-in systems that sync cellphones with car speakers. Owners of older vehicles can buy kits that integrate their phones and stereo systems. A driver also could use a headset, but state law mandates that it cover one ear only-not both.
Remember folks, even apart from safety concerns, legally speaking, this is a moving violation which gives police probable cause to pull you over. So if you have been out on the town for a night of imbibing, and are so addicted to your phone that you decide you have to call someone to share the latest NCAA score directly from the phone, you are not only risking lives but literally thousands of dollars for a good DUI attorney whom you better keep on speed dial for the consequences!