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Tougher Illinois laws on driver phone use signed and effective in 2014

Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a law that bans drivers from using a cellphone that isn't hands-free anywhere in Illinois.
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    December 07, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Distracted driving is a serious issue that has already been addressed in parts of Illinois, including Chicago, where drivers are currently banned from using handheld cellphones. Now, Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a law that bans drivers from using a cellphone that isn't hands-free anywhere in Illinois, as well as a law that increases penalties for distracted drivers who cause accidents. These laws will support existing cellphone bans in smaller communities while drawing public attention to the dangers of distracted driving.

Illinois laws before ban

Texting and driving has been illegal in Illinois since 2010. However, the use of handheld cellphones for other purposes has still been permitted at the state level. ABC Chicago reports that more than 70 communities had banned the use of handheld cellphones as of August 2013. Despite that, drivers who didn't live in those communities or drivers who knew that bans were not consistent across the state may have continued using the phone while driving.

The new ban will still allow the use of hands-free phones. Drivers who use handheld phones, though, will face the following consequences:
- Using a handheld phone is now a moving violation, which means that enough violations can lead to license suspension.
- The fine for using a handheld cellphone will be $75 for first-time offenders.
- Repeat offenders will face steeper fines.
- Drivers caught texting can no longer avoid a ticket by saying that they were using their phone for other purposes.

The new law will become effective on Jan 1., 2014, according to Chicago's WGN TV. With the passage of the law, Illinois has joined 11 other states in completely banning the use of hand-held devices while driving, a significant step towards keeping motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists safer. However, this isn't the only recent action taken to deter distracted driving in Illinois.

Other measures against distracted driving

According to a press release on the Illinois Government News Network website, Gov. Quinn also signed a law that increases punishments for drivers who cause accidents while using electronic devices. In the past, these drivers could only face traffic violation charges. Now, they may be punished with up to a year of prison time for an accident causing serious injury, and between one and three years for an accident causing a fatality.

Together, these laws send a strong message that driver cellphone use is a serious issue that will not be overlooked in Illinois. Bans on cellphone use are becoming more consistent, while penalties are increasing, which will drivers even more reasons to stay focused on the road.

Of course, drivers need to remember that the laws won't go into effect until the start of 2014, and that it may take some time before they are widely known and enforced. Even then, sadly, not everyone will give up dangerous or irresponsible driving habits.

If you have been affected by an accident with a distracted driver, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible to determine whether you may be entitled to compensation.

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