It is common these days to see people using their cell phones while driving, including both talking and texting. However, this is a dangerous activity, and distracted driving has been shown to be a significant factor in car accidents that can cause serious or fatal injuries. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), cell phone use contributes to approximately a quarter of police-reported collisions in the United States. Under Illinois law, it is illegal to make a call on a hand-held phone, send a text message, or use any other form of electronic communication while operating a motor vehicle. Recent changes to that law could affect the penalties someone may face if pulled over for this moving violation.
Distracted driving refers to driving while doing any activities that take a driver’s attention and eyes away from the road. While the use of phones is one of the most common forms of distraction for drivers, technology has improved in recent years, enabling users to make phone calls without using their hands. In Illinois, hands-free devices and BlueTooth technology are permissible for drivers who are 19 years or older. However, even using hands-free devices can be distracting and endanger the driver, as well as other motorists and pedestrians on the road. If a text or voicemail notification sounds an alert on someone’s phone, this may cause the driver to look down. Even if a motorist takes his or her eyes off the road for a few seconds, an accident can happen that quickly.
If a person has to make a phone call, even with hands-free technology, it is recommended that he or she pull off to the side of the road before dialing. The only instances in which Illinois motorists are allowed to use a cell phone that is not hands-free are:
- To report an emergency situation
While parked on the shoulder of a roadway
- While stopped due to normal traffic and the vehicle is in neutral or park
Changes to the Penalties
A new Illinois law took effect on July 1, 2019 that increased the penalties for texting or making a cell phone call while driving. Under this law, a first-time offense of driving while using an electronic communication device is considered a “moving violation.” With this categorization, any violation will affect a motorist’s driving record.
Before this change to the law, Illinois considered first-time offenses for using an electronic device while driving to be “non-moving violations.” Drivers would face a $75, but the violation would not add “points” to their driving record. Subsequent offenses were then classified as moving violations and would result in higher fines.
Drivers will still be subject to the same fines under the new law, but first offenses are now automatically classified as moving violations. If a driver receives three moving violations within a 12-month period, the law mandates the suspension of the offender’s driver’s license. Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White advocated for these stricter penalties in an effort to make Illinois’ roads safer and reduce the number of traffic accidents caused by distracted driving.
Contact a DuPage County Traffic Violation Defense Attorney
Following this change to the laws, drivers in Illinois could face steeper penalties if they use a phone or other device while behind the wheel. If you have been pulled over for texting while driving in Illinois, you should understand your legal options. The knowledgeable legal team at Anderson Attorneys & Advisors will help you understand the best ways to minimize the consequences you face, and if necessary, we will advocate for you in court to help avoid the suspension of your license. Contact a Wheaton traffic ticket defense lawyer today at 630-877-5800 to arrange a free initial consultation.