By Shannon Antinori
Starting in the New Year, it will become illegal to talk or use hand-held cell phones and other communication devices while driving in Illinois.
The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2014, imposes fees starting at $75 for drivers caught talking while driving. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the legislation in August.
“When people get behind the wheel, they have a responsibility to themselves and to others to drive safely,” said Rep. John D’Amico, D-Chicago, in a Illinois Government News Network press release. “When motorists are on the phone, they are not giving their full attention to the most important task they have. This law will help reduce traffic accidents and make Illinois roads safer.”
The law does contain many exceptions including:
- A driver using an electronic communication device for the sole purpose of reporting an emergency situation and continued communication with emergency personnel during the emergency situation.
- A driver using an electronic communication device in hands-free or voice-operated mode, which may include the use of a headset. Current Illinois law states that the cell phone headset must be single sided.
- A driver using an electronic communication device while parked on the shoulder of a roadway.
- A driver using an electronic communication device when the vehicle is stopped due to normal traffic being obstructed and the vehicle is in neutral or park.
- A driver using an electronic communication device by pressing a single button to initiate or terminate a voice communication.
There are more exceptions that can be read on the Illinois General Assembly website.
Also starting on Jan. 1, Illinois will have stricter penalties for drivers who cause an accident while using of an electronic device and driving.
If the accident causes great bodily harm, the driver can be sentenced to up to one year in prison, and a fatal accident can result in a prison sentence of one to three years, according to the IGNN.
Current law only allows these drivers to be charged with traffic violations.
“After passing legislation to ban the use of cell phones in work and school zones, I felt that we needed to enhance the penalties for causing an accident while talking on a cell phone,” said Sen. Martin Sandoval in the IGNN news release. “This measure will increase roadway safety throughout the state and bring additional attention to the dangers of being on a cell phone while behind the wheel.”