Traveling for the Holidays? Remember Hands-Free Laws.
As I hope most of you already know, a new law went into effect in Illinois on January 1, 2014, banning the use of handheld devices while driving. Hands-free technology such as speakerphones, Bluetooth, and headsets are allowed, with the exception of a few circumstances:
- ALL cell phone use is prohibited while driving in a school zone.
- ALL cell phone use is prohibited while driving in a highway construction zone.
- Cell phone use and taking photos or videos is prohibited within 500 feet of an emergency scene
- Novice drivers (defined as any driver under the age of 18) are banned from using any type of mobile device while driving, including both handheld and hands-free.
- Bus drivers are strictly prohibited from texting or using their cell phone while driving.
- All Illinois drivers are prohibited from texting.
The specifics of this law all deal with the problem of distracted driving and the dangers it can cause on the road. According to GHSA.org, Illinois is one of 14 states to enact such a law, so it is important to be mindful of this if you plan to travel during the upcoming holiday season.
Along with the ban on handheld devices, Illinois law strictly prohibits texting while driving. Illinois’ anti-texting law (625 ILCS 5/12-610.2) states that “a person may not operate a motor vehicle on a roadway while using an electronic communication device to compose, send, or read an electronic message.” An electronic communication device refers to a wireless phone, PDA, or a portable computer that is used for composing, reading, or sending an electronic message. It does not include GPS navigation. An electronic message refers to e-mail, text message, and instant message.
If you must use a handheld device while behind the wheel of your car, the law makes only these exceptions:
- Using a device for the sole purpose of reporting an emergency situation and continued communication with emergency personnel during an emergency situation
- Using a device in hands-free or voice-activated mode
- If the driver is parked on the side of the road or the shoulder
- When a vehicle is stopped due to normal traffic being obstructed and the driver has the vehicle in park or neutral
Enforcement of Hands-Free Laws
The texting and hands-free laws are both primary laws. A primary law means that an officer can pull you over even if he didn’t witness some other violation. That means, if he sees you texting or talking on a handheld device while driving, he can pull you over and give you a ticket.
Penalties for Driving While Using a Handheld Device
Violators will be fined $75 for the first offense and as much as $150 for repeat offences. They could also have a moving violation on their driving record. Three moving violations could lead to your driver’s license being suspended.
A separate law increases penalties for distracted drivers found to have caused crashes. A distracted driver who causes car accident injuries faces up to 1 year in prison, and up to $2,500 in fines. A distracted driver involved in a fatal accident faces fines of up to $25,000 and 3 years in prison.
The best thing you can do for the safety of yourself and other drivers on the road is to simply turn off your cell phone while you’re driving. If you cannot do this, for whatever reason, there are a number of wireless solutions that allow electronic devices to connect remotely. Some newer cars have built-in Bluetooth that your phone can connect to through your car stereo speakers. Owners of older vehicles can buy kits that integrate their phones to their car stereo system. A driver could also use a headset, but the law mandates that it only cover one ear.
If you or someone you love has been injured by someone who was texting while driving or talking on a handheld communications device, you need to speak with a personal injury attorney right away.
At the LIeser Law Firm, we will stand by you and will pursue a fair recovery for your personal injury case.
CONTACT us today for a FREE legal consultation.