Illinois Enacts Tougher Cell Phone and Texting Laws

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Illinois has passed three new bills aimed at restricting the use of cell phones and other electronic devices while driving.  The package of bills, which were signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn on July 20th, prohibit commercial drivers from texting or using handheld cellphones while driving, prohibit any person’s use of a cell phone while driving within 500 feet of an emergency scene, and prohibit any person’s use of cell phones in a road construction zone, regardless of whether that construction zone is a reduced speed area.

This trio of bills is designed to toughen Illinois’s stance on cellphone usage and texting while driving.  By reducing the allowable usage areas of cell phones and other handheld electronic devices, the law aims to focus driver’s attentions back on the road.  Prior to the enactment of these laws, both handheld and hands-free cell phone use was permitted, unless you were driving in a school zone or were licensed as a novice driver.  Texting while driving has always been prohibited.

Although these laws generally apply throughout Illinois, it’s important to understand that certain municipalities may pass their own laws restricting cell phone usage while driving.  For example, it is against the law to use cell phones while driving in Chicago, regardless of your age.  There are at least 75 other municipalities in Illinois which have also banned cell phone use for drivers within the city limits.  Drivers who choose to use cell phones while driving should take care to know whether they are complying with the laws of their local township.

Even if you are allowed to use a cell phone while driving, there are some important steps you should take to help ensure your safety and the safety of other motorists.  If possible, try to use a hand’s free device, which not only allows you to have both hands available for driving, but can also help to improve your ability to see other cars and traffic around you.  Also, you should end your conversations while in heavy traffic or other congested areas.  Placing your full attention on the roadway will help you to better react to the changing environment around you.

Illinois’s cell phone laws are considered “primary laws” under the Illinois motor vehicle code.  This means that if a police officer sees you using a phone in a manner which violates the law, he or she may stop and ticket you for that violation.  That violation on its own is enough for making such a stop.

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