Know the law: Illinois' new cellphone ban

Beginning January 1, 2014, Illinois drivers may not operate a motor vehicle on a roadway while using an electronic communication device, specifically a cell phone.

What exactly does this law do?
The law prohibits the use of a hand held cell phone while driving, drivers still can use their phones in hands-free or voice activated mode, which may include a headset.

What is the penalty for disobeying the new law?
A person who violates the new law will be fined a maximum of $75 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense, $125 for a third offense, and $150 for a fourth or subsequent offense.

Is it a moving violation to use a hand held phone while driving?
A first offense for driving while using an electronic communication device will not be considered a moving violation. However, subsequent offenses will be considered a moving violation and will be recorded on one’s driving record.

Can law enforcement officers stop you for using a hand held phone?
The new hand held cell phone ban is a primary stop offense, which means that a driver can be stopped without any other violation.

Are there any exceptions to the ban?
The following exemptions to the hand held cell phone ban are included in the new law:
  1. law enforcement officer or operator of an emergency vehicle while performing his or her official duties; 
  2. a driver using an electronic communication device for the sole purpose of reporting an emergency situation and continued communication with emergency personnel during the emergency situation;
  3. a driver using an electronic communication device in hands-free or voice-operated mode, which may include the use of a headset;
  4. a driver of a commercial motor vehicle reading a message displayed on a permanently installed communication device designed for a commercial motor vehicle with a screen that does not exceed 10 inches tall by 10 inches wide in size;
  5. a driver using an electronic communication device while parked on the shoulder of a roadway; or
  6. a driver using an electronic communication device when the vehicle is stopped due to normal traffic being obstructed and the driver has the motor vehicle transmission in neutral or park;
  7. a driver using two-way or citizens band (CB) radio services;
  8. a driver using two-way mobile radio transmitters or receivers for licensees of the Federal Communications Commission in the amateur radio service;
  9. a driver using an electronic communication device by pressing a single button to initiate or terminate a voice communication; or a driver using an electronic communication device capable of performing multiple functions, other than a hand-held wireless telephone or hand-held personal digital assistant (for example, a fleet management system, dispatching device, citizens band radio, or music player) for a purpose that is not otherwise prohibited. 

What is the background of the handheld cell phone ban?
In December 2011, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended that state governments prohibit all drivers from using portable electronic devices, such as cellphones while behind the wheel. The board's federal recommendation for private vehicles would greatly expand previous calls to prohibit cellphone use among commercial drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration adopted a prohibition in November 2011 against commercial drivers using hand-held cellphones while behind the wheel. Commercial driver violations carry a $2,750 fine. The NTSB’s recommendations triggered multiple pieces of legislation during the last legislative session.

This session, supporters of the hand held ban were successful in passing a ban in both houses. Antioch, Chicago, Deerfield, Evanston, North Chicago, and Waukegan currently have similar municipal bans on hand held cell phones while driving.

HB 1247 passed the House by a vote of 64-46-0. In the Senate, HB 1247 was amended to provide that a first offense for driving while using an electronic communication device is not a moving violation.  Provisions contained in the Senate version that make a first violation not a moving violation apply to the entire section, including texting.  As amended, HB 1247 passed the Senate by a vote of 34-20-0, the House concurred by a vote of 69-48-0, and was enacted as P.A. 98-506 effective January 1st, 2014.

Texting while driving is already banned in Illinois.