As of January 1, 2014, Illinois joins 11 other states plus Washington, D.C. in prohibiting the use of handheld cell phones while driving.
Drivers are no longer permitted to hold a handheld to their ear to talk, except in case of emergencies. Motorist are still permitted to use headsets, speakerphone or voice-activated dialing while driving. Texting is already illegal under Illinois law.
Why the ban?
Although scientific studies yield varying results, using a handheld cellphone while driving is largely considered distracting for the driver and may increase the risk of an accident. One study indicates that talking a cellphone reduces a drivers’ reaction time to levels observed in drunk drivers or senior drivers, while another suggests that talking on a cell has no impact on crash rates at all.
One thing that is clear, however, is that distracted driving is generally connected to thousands of car accidents and deaths each year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 3,328 people died in distraction-related crashes in 2012, and about 387,000 were injured.
Governor Pat Quinn, in signing the bill into law, said in a prepared statement: “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. These new laws will save lives.
What’s the fine?
Violations of the law will lead to fines ranging from $75 for first time offenders to $150 for repeat offenders. Repeat offenders may also get a moving violation on their driving record. If you receive three moving violations within a year, your drivers license could be suspended. In addition, the new law dictates that if you cause a fatal accident while using a handheld device, you could be imprisoned for up to three years and fined as much as$25,000.