Starting this summer, Illinois is cracking down even further on distracted driving with tougher penalties for people who use mobile devices behind the wheel.
In 2017, distracted driving — mostly related to cellphone usage— killed 3,166 people across the United States, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
Sending or reading a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for five seconds, the agency said. At 55 mph, that is similar to driving the length of a football field blindfolded.
Illinois banned texting and driving in 2010, followed by a ban on cellphone use without a hands-free device in 2014.
Now, under an amendment to the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code that went into effect July 1, 2019, drivers face tougher consequences for using any electronic devices at the wheel. That includes phones, iPads, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and computers. The amendment excludes GPS, navigation and other systems physically integrated into the vehicle.
In the past, first-time offenses counted as nonmoving violations. Now, drivers are issued moving violations each time they’re caught using mobile devices. Three moving violations in a year could lead to a license suspension.
If the use of a cellphone results in an accident causing personal injury or death, the violation may be upgraded from a petty offense to a misdemeanor or felony.
“This law is a step in the right direction to making our roads safer,” McNabola Law Group founding partner Mark McNabola said. “It also gives me the ability to make stronger cases for full and fair compensation for victims of distracted drivers.”
A mobile device cannot be used in a driver’s hands at all unless one of the following exceptions applies:
• Using the cellphone to call for emergency assistance;
• Using the cellphone in “hands-free” mode or with the use of a headset;
• Using the cellphone while parked on the shoulder of a roadway;
• Using the cellphone on the roadway if the normal flow of traffic has stopped and the vehicle is in park or neutral;
• Using a device that has a single button to start or stop a call.
People who violate the law face fines of $75 for the first offense, $100 for the second and $150 for each future offense.