Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate drivers about...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Licensed Agent for 10 Years

UPDATED: Aug 27, 2019

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Distracted driving refers to the use of hand-held devices, such as cellphones and IPads, while driving.

This behavior is responsible for a growing number of automobile accidents across the nation and many states are hurrying to pass legislation to ban the use of cell phones while driving altogether or to put severe restrictions on the use of these devices, especially texting while driving.

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How dangerous is distracted driving?

The legislative body of the state of Illinois and the Chicago municipal authorities, have been involved in recent efforts to track and deter accidents caused by distracted driving. Several piece of legislation have already been passed, and others are forthcoming.

Illinois Fines for Texting and Driving

In 2009, the State Legislature passed a bill that banned texting while driving for all drivers. The fine for this offense is a state-mandated $75 for a first offense. This law took effect in July of 2010.

The law regarding improper cell phone use is also now a “primary law” in Illinois. This means that an officer can pull someone over simply by observing that the person is breaking the cell phone use law.

In the past, an officer could only issue a ticket for improper handheld device use if the car was already stopped for some other traffic violation.

Strict Distracted Driving Laws for Drivers under 19

Currently, Illinois has several restrictions on handheld devices while driving. Drivers under the age of 19 are not permitted to use handheld devices while driving under any circumstances, even with a “hands-free” operation system.

Failure to adhere to this rule can result in the suspension or loss of driver’s license, especially if the driver is on a “learners” permit. The focus of the law regarding “novice” drivers is the belief that young people are the primary force in distracted driving.

However, new studies are indicating that the number of adults who also drive distractedly may be increasing.

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Illinois Hands Free Laws

Drivers of all ages are also prohibited from using any handheld device to surf the internet, text, or email while driving. Motorists over the age of 19 are not permitted to use cell phones in construction areas or school speed zones.

Finally, in Chicago, no driver can use a cell phone without a “hands-free” device, which allows the driver to talk without manipulating the telephone.

Many hands-free devices are simply earpieces designed to allow the driver to talk and drive at the same time, although many new cars have built-in hands-free systems which operate through the car’s stereo.

While Illinois has long banned cell phone use for school bus drivers, a recent Senate bill amended this law to mandate that school bus drivers carry a cell phone for the purposes of communication in an emergency.

The same rule still applies, however, to use of the cell phone for personal communication while driving.

Police Reports now include Cell Phone Use

On May 31, 2011, the state of Illinois passed a law that requires police officers to note and track the involvement of cell phone use in auto accidents. This tracking is designed to enhance a two-year study to show exactly how dangerous this behavior can be.

Current legislation in the Illinois House and Senate also involves cell phone usage and driving in several areas. One proposed bill asks that commercial driving courses be required to address the issue of cell phone usage, and especially the dangers of text messaging, while driving.

This bill is currently being held in the Education Committee for revision.

Another bill appropriating $1.5 million to the Illinois Department of Transportation for distracted driving training has been inactive since February 22, 2011.

A suggestion made by Chicago Alderman Edward Burke would require all cell phone companies which operate in the city to sell only phones which are equipped with software that automatically turns them off when the car is in operation.

Burke believes that parents would support this rule, as many of them do not understand how to install and use such software on their children’s phones.

Others believe that this may be infringing too much on the rights of those who do not use their cell phones illegally while driving.

Consumer Sentiment about the Hands Free Law in Illinois

In Highland Park, a suburb of Chicago, 80% of residents polled agreed that a hands-free law should be in effect statewide. Of this number, 47 percent would agree to a total ban on cell phone usage while driving.

Chicago fines for distracted driving jumped in 2010 from $20 to $100. The fine is $500 if the distracted driving causes an accident.

Preliminary figures obtained from tracking cell phone usage and accident statistics suggest that at least 1,000 accidents in 2010 involved some form of distracted driving, a figure which equates to about 28 percent of crashes for the year.

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Related posts:

  1. California Distracted Driving Laws
  2. How Dangerous is Distracted Driving?