Illinois hand-held cell phone ban to take effect Wednesday

By Daily Illini Staff Report

Illinois motorists won’t be able to use hand-held cell phones behind the wheel beginning Wednesday.

The measure, which was signed by Gov. Pat Quinn in August, is among hundreds of laws to take effect this week. Users with a hand-free or voice-activated device, for example Bluetooth, can still make and receive calls.

The cell phone ban, similar to the no-texting law that took effect in 2010, carries fines of $75 on the first offense, $100 on the second offense, $125 on the third offense and $150 for further violations.

Drivers are already prohibited from talking on cell phones in school and construction zones.The U.S. Department of Transportation said in a press release drivers using hand-held devices are four times more likely to get into an accident.

There are also harsher penalties that include prison time for accidents that are caused by distracted driving while using an electronic device. If the crash causes great bodily harm, the driver can face up to one year behind bars. For a fatal accident, the driver can be sentenced anywhere from one to three years in prison.

According to current law, drivers can only be charged with traffic violations.

In addition to the ban on hand-held devices, the state is implementing changes to speed limits and penalties for breaking those marks.

Other changes include the speed limit on rural interstates will become 70 mph, an increase from the previous 65 mph. There are eight counties — notably Cook County — with heavily congested highways that will be allowed to opt out of this increase and maintain their 55 mph limit, according to a press release from the Illinois State Police Department.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is encouraging motorists to follow the speed limit on the signs until the unit has a change to implement new ones.

There are also some new penalties for speeding across the state. Driving 26 mph over the posted speed limit will be a Class B misdemeanor and driving 35 mph or more over the limit is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries up to a year in prison and a maximum $2,500 fine.