Friday, June 14th, 2013

New Illinois Law Bans Handheld Device Use While Driving

by David J. Loughnane and Brad Stewart

Brad StewartDavid J. Loughnane

Starting Jan. 1, 2014, it will be illegal throughout Illinois for any driver, regardless of age, to use a handheld device – cell phone, personal digital assistant (PDA), or mobile computer – while driving.  This legislation, HB 1247, was signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn on Aug. 16, 2013.  The new law is contained in 625 ILCS 5/12-610.2.

Currently, drivers under age 19 are prohibited from using cell phones for any purpose while driving, and all drivers, regardless of age, are prohibited from texting while driving. In addition, at least 70 municipalities (including Chicago and several suburbs) have enacted their own ordinances banning the use of handheld devices while driving. The bill just passed by the Illinois Legislature will now expand the prohibition on using handheld devices to all parts of the state.

The focus of this new legislation is on banning the use of handheld electronic devices while a vehicle is not parked. Note that the new law provides the following exceptions:

  • Hands-free or voice-activated phones or devices, including the use of a headset
  • Global Positioning System (GPS) or navigation devices
  • Two-way or Citizens Band (CB) radio services
  • A device that can be activated or terminated by pressing a single button
  • If the vehicle is parked on the shoulder of a roadway, or stopped due to normal traffic obstruction, and the vehicle’s transmission is in neutral or park
  • Reporting an emergency situation and the continued communication with emergency personnel during the emergency situation
  • Use by law enforcement or emergency personnel in the course of official duties
  • Certain commercial motor vehicle devices
  • Two-way mobile radio transmitters or receivers for licensees of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the amateur radio service.

A more ambiguous exception indicates that it’s OK to use devices capable of performing “multiple functions,” other than communication purposes; among the functions specifically mentioned are fleet management systems and music players. It’s unclear if the law means that it’s OK, while driving, to be using your handheld cell phone to set up a music playlist or audio book, just so long as you’re not making a call or texting. Or perhaps it refers to other devices that have multiple functions, and you can do absolutely nothing with a handheld device while driving.

For violation of the new law, the first offense is not considered a “moving” offense, and therefore the violation should not affect car insurance premiums or driving privileges. The penalty for the first violation results is a maximum fine of $75; the second offense is $100; the third offense is $125; and the fourth or subsequent offenses are $150.

The new law also has implications for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists injured by drivers who are using electronic devices in violation of the law. In some cases, the new law may offer a personal injury victim a statutory basis to support a claim that the driver who violated the law was acting negligently when texting while driving, or when committing similar violations of the new law.

David J. Loughnane practices civil litigation, personal injury, healthcare law and employment law at Zukowski, Rogers, Flood & McArdle, the largest law firm in McHenry County, Illinois. For more of his professional credentials, please view David J. Loughnane’s biography. Brad Stewart focuses his practice primarily on civil litigation and local government law. For more of his professional credentials, please view Brad Stewart’s biography.