Heyl Royster

 

The Statewide Ban on Cell Phones While Driving: Public Act 98-0506

Illinois drivers have been prohibited from texting and driving since 2012. Until recently, however, Illinois drivers were only prohibited from talking and driving in limited circumstances. Prior to the adoption of Public Act 98-0506, drivers 19 years of age or younger were restricted from using both hand-held and hands-free cell phones while driving, except in emergency situations. 625 ILCS 5/12-610.1(b). Drivers in construction and school zones were not allowed to use hand-held cell phones, except in emergencies. 625 ILCS 5/12-610.1(e). The City of Chicago and other municipalities prohibited hand-held cell phone devices, but enforcement was limited by jurisdictional boundaries and often caused confusion for drivers traveling through multiple cities where the ban may or may not have been in place. Beginning on January 1, 2014, all drivers in Illinois will be prohibited from driving and talking on a hand-held cell phone unless they are utilizing the phone in a hands-free mode.

Under the new law, drivers are prohibited from operating a motor vehicle on a roadway while using a hand-held wireless phone. 625 ILCS 5/12-610.2(a-b). The law allows hand-held phones in the following circumstances: for law enforcement officials while performing official duties, for drivers reporting emergencies, for drivers using their phone in hands-free or voice-operated mode, which includes headsets, for drivers parked on the shoulder of a roadway, for drivers stopped due to normal traffic while the vehicle is in neutral or park, for drivers using two-way radios and for drivers utilizing a single button to initiate or terminate a voice communication. 625 ILCS 5/12-610.2(1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9).

A violation of the law subjects the driver to a $75 fine for the first offense, $100 for the second offense, $125 for the third offense and $150 for the fourth and subsequent offense. 625 ILCS 5/12-601.2(c).

What do these changes mean for local public bodies? First, review your existing policies on cell phone usage. If your public body does not have a policy on the use of cell phones, now is the time to implement one. Second, consider adopting an ordinance on hands-free driving. Municipalities have the authority to regulate traffic within their corporate boundaries and may adopt a part or all of the Illinois Traffic Code. 65 ILCS 5/11-80-20. While some non-home rule municipalities have enforced hands-free driving for years, this legislation is the first grant of authority to non-home rule municipalities to locally prosecute hands-free driving violations.