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Here's what you need to know about the Illinois crackdown on texting while driving going into effect July 1

Javonte Anderson, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

CHICAGO -- Illinois drivers caught using their cellphones will soon face harsher penalties that could ultimately lead to a license suspension.

Beginning July 1, drivers caught using an electronic device will no longer be issued just a warning ticket on their first offense. Instead, drivers will be issued a moving violation. Three moving violations in a year will result in a license suspension.

Here's what you need to know about Illinois' new law on texting while driving.

In addition to the moving violation, a person who violates the law will be fined a maximum of $75 on the first offense, $100 on the second offense, $125 on the third offense and $150 for all future offenses.

The ban is not limited to cellphones and includes any "electronic communication device."

"It's not only texting. If they're using the electronic device, they can be fined," Mindy Carroll, an Illinois State Police spokeswoman said.

The new law does not apply to:

-- A law enforcement officer or operator of an emergency vehicle performing official duties

-- A driver using an electronic device to report an emergency

-- A driver using a phone in hands-free mode, which can include the use of a headset or headphones

-- A driver using an electronic device while parked on the shoulder of a roadway

 

The first Illinois law to prohibit texting while driving went into effect Jan. 1, 2010, followed by a ban on cellphone use without a hands-free device in 2014. The crackdown going into effect July 1 was signed in 2018.

Last year, state police issued 15,150 citations for distracted driving, Carroll said. And nationwide, 3,166 people died from distracted driving nationally in 2017, according to federal data.

"What we're trying to do is change the perception of distracted driving and make it socially unacceptable," Carroll said. "Hopefully, people realize how dangerous it is. It's time to put the phones down.

After a yearlong Chicago Tribune examination of teen driving in 2006, state lawmakers passed a law spearheaded by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White that gave Illinois some of the nations most stringent sets of teen driving restrictions, intensifying the requirements for Illinois' teenagers to acquire a driver's license.

"Bottom line is we want to make our roads as safe as possible," said Rep. John D'Amico (D-Chicago), the only Illinois lawmaker to sponsor each piece of legislation prohibiting the use on electronic devices while driving.

"We have to keep trying to improve. But the way technology is and all the distractions in the car we just want to make sure people get to point A to point B safely."

(c)2019 Chicago Tribune

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