Published on August 16 2013 9:28 pm
Written by Wayne Moran
If you're one of the many, many drivers that tend to use your cell phone while you're out and about, it'll be illegal come January 1, 2014. Sort of.
Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation Friday that bans the use of cellphones held to the ear while driving. Motorists will be able to use speakerphones or headsets that allow one-digit or voice-activated dialing. Current Android, Blackberry, Windows-based phones and iPhones all have one-touch dialing built-in, as well as many other devices. It allows quick one-touch dialing, without the need to type in the entire phone number.
Most of these devices also have voice-dialing capability, allowing you to tell the phone who you want to call, and the device does the rest.
The new law takes effect Jan. 1. Illinois joins 11 other states and Washington, D.C. in prohibiting hand-held devices while driving. However, the law excludes emergencies; you'll still be able to use your phone as you can now to make a 911 or other emergency call.
Texting while driving is a different story, and is already illegal in Illinois.
Governor Quinn spoke of the new bill Friday, saying “Too many Illinois families have suffered because of accidents that could have been prevented. Anyone driving a car should be careful, responsive and alert behind the wheel.”
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, drivers using hand-held devices are four times more likely to get in a crash involving injuries, and statistics say distracted driving caused 387,000 injuries and 3,000 fatalities in 2011.
Drivers that ignore the new law and cause an accident will have it tougher as well, under another new law Quinn signed Friday; a measure that increases the penalties for motorists whose accident was caused by someone using an electronic device. It also takes effect Jan. 1.
That new law will include prison time for offenders who cause an injury due to the accident. Drivers could see up to a year in prison for a severe injury, three years if death results. The current law allows only traffic violations to be written.