Governor Signs Hands-Free Cell Phone Requirement When Operating Motor Vehicle

Get Ready for January 1, 2014, effective date

By Mary Schaefer, MORe Now Contributor

Governor Pat Quinn has signed two new laws aimed at reducing the number of accidents caused by distracted drivers. One law prohibits the use of all hand-held mobile phones while driving on Illinois roads, and the second increases the penalties where any use of an electronic device while driving is the cause of an accident.

House Bill 1247, sponsored by State Representative John D’Amico (D-Chicago) and State Senator John Mulroe (D-Chicago), prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle on any road in Illinois while using a mobile phone or other electronic communication device. The bill makes exceptions for hands-free devices, including those with headsets that can initiate a call using a
single button or a voice command. The new law takes effect January 1, 2014.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, drivers using hand-held devices are four times more likely to get into an accident causing injuries, and distracted driving caused 387,000 injuries and more than 3,000 fatalities across the country in 2011. Illinois joins 11 other states and the District of Columbia in banning the use of hand-held devices while driving.

“When people get behind the wheel, they have a responsibility to themselves and to others to drive safely,” Representative D’Amico said. “When motorists are on the phone, they are not giving their full attention to the most important task they have. This law will help reduce traffic accidents and make Illinois roads safer.”

House Bill 2585, sponsored by State Representative Natalie Manley (D-Joliet) and State Senator Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago), increases the penalties that can be imposed on drivers whose use of an electronic device while driving causes an accident. If the accident causes great bodily harm, the driver can be sentenced to up to one year in prison, and a fatal accident can result in a prison sentence of one to three years. Current law only allows these drivers to be charged with traffic violations. The new law takes effect January 1, 2014.

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