Governor Pat Quinn signed two bills into law aimed to reduce accidents caused by distracted drivers.
Drivers in Illinois are no longer allowed to use hand-held mobile phones, and penalties have been increased for those who cause an accident because they were using these devices.
Starting January 1, 2014 motorists are prohibited from using a mobile phone or any other communication device. Hands-free devices are an exception, including those with headsets that can make a call using just one button, or a voice command.
Quinn said distracted driving is dangerous and deadly, and the new law will help save lives.
“Too many Illinois families have suffered because of accidents that could have been prevented,” said Quinn.
“We want drivers to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel,” Senator John Mulroe, who sponsored the legislation said. “The phone call can wait.”
If a driver is using a mobile communication device and causes an accident, the penalties will be stiffer. If the accident causes great bodily harm, the driver could be sentenced to up to one year in prison. A fatal accident could result in one to three years. This law takes effect in conjunction with the other, on January 1, 2014. The current law only allows people to be charged with traffic violations.
Sponsor of the bill, Senator Martin Sandoval, said the measure will make Illinois roads safer, and bring attention to the issue.
“After passing legislation to ban the use of cell phones in work and school zones, I felt that we needed to enhance the penalties for causing an accident while talking on a cell phone,” Sandoval said.