The new year brings new cell phone laws for Illinois

Public officials have identified distracted driving as one of the biggest threats to public safety currently faced by society. Illinois lawmakers have addressed the issue by passing three new driving laws to try to reduce driver distractions, which they hope will result in fewer motor vehicles accidents on the state's roads. The new laws went into effect on January 1, 2013, and Illinois drivers should be aware of the new restrictions on what they may do behind the way.

Reducing distraction, increasing safety

The first law makes it a serious traffic violation to use a hand-held cell phone in work or school zones, no matter what the speed limit in these zones is. Prior to the law's passage, drivers could use hand-held cell phones in work zones if the posted speed limit was not lower than the normal speed limit. Drivers may still use voice activated cell phones in these zones, as was allowed before they change in the law. The new law also allows for the use of headsets and cell phones with single-button activation.

The second law makes it a serious traffic violation for commercial vehicle drivers to send text messages or use cell phones while driving. Before the law changed, texting while driving was illegal for all Illinois drivers, not just commercial vehicle drivers, but commercial drivers could use cell phones while driving. By changing the law, Illinois state officials have aligned state law with federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations forbidding commercial vehicle drivers from texting and using cell phone. The law defines commercial vehicles as those weighing 26,001 pounds or more, vehicles designed to carry 16 or more passengers or vehicles carrying hazardous materials.

The third law deals with eliminating the distractions caused by auto accidents on the road. The law allows drivers involved in accidents where there was only damage to property, not injuries to people, to move their vehicles off the road to a safe location such as an exit ramp, frontage road, cross street or other area that does not obstruct traffic. Before lawmakers amended the statue, the law stated that drivers could move their cars so they were not blocking traffic, but the new language in the law clarifies that drivers who move their vehicles to a different location will not be violating the statute. Lawmakers hope that having people move their vehicles off of major roads after auto accidents will cause fewer drivers to be distracted by seeing accidents on the side of the road and will cause fewer traffic bottlenecks.

Dangers of distracted driving

According to the American Automobile Association, car accidents are one of the leading causes of death for people in the U.S. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that distracted driving is a leading cause of motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. NTHSA data shows that 3,331 people died and approximately another 378,000 were injured in accidents attributable to distracted driving in 2011. Some experts believe that these statistics are conservative estimates and do not reveal the true extent of the damage distracted driving causes, since it can be difficult to determine the extent to which driver distraction plays in some accidents.

Talk to a lawyer

Even though Illinois has laws prohibiting many behaviors that distract drivers, not every driver pays attention to the law. When drivers choose to drive while distracted by other activities, they put everyone's safety at risk. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by a distracted driver, speak with a seasoned personal injury attorney who can help you recover just and proper compensation for your losses.