A full ban on cell phones for Illinois motorists could be on the way, as part of an effort to prevent Chicago car accidents.
Lawmakers in the Illinois House of Representatives are currently haggling over a bill that would eliminate the use of handheld cell phones while driving, except in the instance of an emergency.
Our Chicago car accident attorneys are aware that distracted driving is a leading cause of thousands of fatal crashes in the country every year. In fact, about half of all drivers on the road at any given time are said to be distracted, according to the Governors’ Highway Safety Association.
As of today, the GHSA reports there are 9 states, as well as Washington D.C. and the Virgin Islands, which have laws banning all motorists from using handheld phones while driving. Of those, in all except for one (Maryland), the offense is considered primary, meaning an officer can stop you solely for talking on your handheld phone while driving.
While there aren’t any states that currently ban all cell phone use, including hands-free devices, there are restrictions against new drivers in 30 states (including Illinois), as well as Washington D.C. Additionally, school bus drivers in 19 states have to stay off their phones while students are on board.
The current bill is being considered by the Illinois legislature.
State Representative John D’Amico of Chicago was quoted by Chicago media outlets as saying it is a work in progress. He admits there is a vocal opposition, but he added that lawmakers faced similar outcry when enacting ban on texting and driving. That law already bans cell phone use for drivers under the age of 19. This new law would extend the latter part of the law to include everyone.
Even cell phone companies are in favor of the bill, as evidenced by a lobbyist who spoke at a recent committee meeting in Chicago. Still, the lobbyist did add there are other distractions of which drivers need to be mindful. He cited the time he had been rear-ended by a woman who turned around to talk to her children.
The bill wouldn’t be anything new for Chicagoans – local leaders already enacted a law banning cell phone use behind the wheel within city limits.
As the Chicago Tribune reports, though, there would be one major difference if the statewide law goes into effect. The citywide ban comes with a penalty of a ticket, where a driver who breaks the law would have to pay a fine. In the statewide bill, as it is currently written, a violation would be considered a moving offense, akin to a speeding ticket or running a red light. That means violators would rack up points on their licenses – or even lose their licenses – in addition to paying heavy fines, generally between $75 to $150 for people caught red-handed more than once.
D’Amico said the penalties may seem harsh, but he and other lawmakers wanted to ensure that motorists took heed. He worried it might not be effective and fewer people would be deterred if there were no serious consequences.
What the new law wouldn’t impede is drivers using hands-free or Bluetooth devices, which would allow drivers the opportunity to keep both hands on the wheel, and eyes on the road.
D’Amico reiterated that he’s not insisting everyone in Illinois discontinue their conversation, but he does want everyone to get to their destination safely.
If you, a friend or a loved one has been involved in a car accident in Chicago or in any of the surrounding areas, the personal injury attorneys and wrongful death lawyers at Abels & Annes offer free and confidential appointments to discuss the rights of accident victims. Call (866) 99-ABELS. There is no fee unless you win.
Ban on cell use while driving could go statewide, By Ray Long, The Chicago Tribune
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