January 1, 2014 marked the first day of the Illinois ban on hand-held cell phone use by drivers. The ban is intended to combat car accidents caused by distracted driving. The law has been criticized by some for arbitrarily separating hand-held cell phone use from the use of hands-free devices. Some studies have indicated that there is little difference in terms of the level of distraction between hands-free technology and hand-held technology. State police plan on issuing fines, starting at $75, to drivers who are caught using hand-held devices behind the wheel.
Using a handheld cell phone while driving is a dangerous practice. Many Illinois communities, including Chicago, already have cell phone bans in place. The statewide ban will allow for greater uniformity in addressing this form of distracted driving. While the law does not forbid other forms of distracted driving that may be equally dangerous, it does address a behavior that has grown commonplace in recent years.
The law calls for a series of escalating fines for drivers caught using handheld cell phones while driving. After a fourth offense, a driver could face license suspension for any further infractions. The law exempts the use of cell phones in emergencies, as well as the use of hand-held phones while stopped in traffic, provided the car has been placed in neutral or park. The ban was passed at the same time as a measure that provides for harsher penalties for drivers who cause injuries or fatalities in accidents related to the use of cell phones or other electronic devices.
Source: Chicago Tribune, “Driver cellphone ban arrives in Illinois,” by Monique Garcia, 28 December 2013