Cell phone use while driving may soon be illegal statewide in Illinois

August 14, 2013

It remains commonplace behavior. One hand on the wheel, the other holds the cellphone to the ear, or maybe below the face, as you talk while driving in traffic. Chicago and more than 70 other communities in Illinois already ban the use of handheld cellphones while driving, but habits die hard.

"The only way to correct such a bad habit is to have a law with teeth in it," said State Rep. John D'Amico, D-Chicago.

John D'Amico is chief sponsor of the bill that would make the handheld use of cell phones while driving against the law anywhere in the state. First offense is a $75 fine, which goes up for repeaters.

"So people are gonna think twice after they get that one ticket. I think that's a pretty hefty fine," said Rep. D'Amico.

But it's also a moving violation. Three in a year and your driver's license is in jeopardy. Texting while driving has been against the law in Illinois for the past four years, but enforcement is tricky because motorists can easily say, 'I wasn't texting, I was picking up the phone to talk, or find music. That's no longer a valid excuse under the new law.

"Without enforcement the law is nothing but a piece of paper. We have to get our officers out there so people know this is serious and we're gonna stop it," said Jennifer Smith.

Jennifer Smith's mother died five years ago when she was hit by a driver talking on his cellphone. He missed a light. Never touched his brakes.

"We're trying to change a culture. This problem has no niche. Everyone is at risk," said Smith.

The law would permit hands-free cell phone use while driving. The Governor's office has declined specific comment on the bill saying, "The governor is always interested in legislation that increases safety on our roads. He's reviewing this bill and will act on it soon."

The law would become effective January 1, 2014.

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