Drivers in Illinois now face stiffer penalties for injuring people in crosswalks, in school zones or while texting and driving.
“People may think it’s harmless to multitask and text while behind the wheel,” McNabola Law Group partner Mark McNabola said, “but the result can be catastrophic. These new laws help hold reckless and distracted drivers accountable. Pedestrians, cyclists and fellow motorists depend on drivers to follow the rules of the road.”
Under a new amendment to the Illinois Vehicle Code, drivers who cause “great bodily harm, permanent disability or disfigurement to another person” while texting and driving now face a 12-month license suspension and minimum $1,000 fine.
Illinois banned texting and driving in 2010 and cracked down further on distracting driving last year with stiffer penalties for people who use electronic devices behind the wheel.
Distracted driving killed more than 2,800 people in 2018, according to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Among those killed were 1,730 drivers, 605 passengers, 400 pedestrians and 77 bicyclists.
The agency also estimates 400,000 people across the U.S. were injured in 2018 crashes involving distracted driving.
A second Illinois law that went into effect July 1, 2020, establishes a 12-month license suspension for drivers who seriously injure someone in crosswalks or school zones. Previously, drivers could be subject to a fine without losing their license.
The law, an amendment to the Illinois Vehicle Code, has been named “Mason’s Law” in memory of 24-year-old Mason Knorr, who was killed in August 2018 when a semi-truck driver ran a stop sign and crashed into Knorr’s pickup truck.
“Distracted driving and the safety of pedestrians remain among our biggest challenges to get the number of traffic deaths where it should be: zero,” Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman said in a statement.
McNabola Law Group in May filed a lawsuit after a Lake County cyclist was struck by a vehicle in a crosswalk. The 41-year-old victim suffered major internal injuries and 14 broken ribs. He required extensive surgery.
The crosswalk, located at the intersection of the Skokie Valley Bike Path and Westleigh Road in Lake Forest, Ill., was clearly marked with a bright yellow street sign and white paint on the pavement.
“Anyone behind the wheel should know yellow signs at crosswalks are the equivalent of a stop sign,” McNabola said. “Mason’s Law reinforces how serious and necessary it is to pay attention and stop.”
Two other driving laws went into effect this month:
• Illinois’ gas tax doubled last year to 38 cents per gallon to help fund statewide road improvements. It rose again this month by 0.7 cents per gallon.
• Drivers will no longer have their license or vehicle registration suspended for unpaid parking fines or tollway violations. “Parking tickets have no impact whatsoever on your ability to drive safely, so it really shouldn’t impact the privileges of your driver’s license,” Henry Haupt, a spokesman for the Illinois Secretary of State’s office, told NPR.
Across the state line, Indiana this month became one of three new states to ban the use of hand-held cellphones. Under the new law, drivers can be fined up to $500 and potentially lose their license for holding a phone while driving — even if the phone isn’t being used.
Texting while driving has been illegal in Indiana since 2011.