Illinois officials say Rock Island and Bureau counties are among locations where drivers are most likely to comply with the state’s ban on drivers using hand-held cell phones.
The Illinois Department of Transportation observed more than 33,000 drivers on roads across the state in November 2013, to measure how many drivers were already complying with the state law that would go into effect January 1, 2014. They wanted a baseline against which later studies could be measured.
At the time of the study, nearly 18 percent of all drivers observed in Chicago were holding cell phones or other electronic devices close to their ears or faces, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Rock Island and Bureau counties were among six counties with the lowest rate of electronic device use by drivers, at nine percent. Champaign, Effingham, Madison and St. Clair counties also had a nine percent rate of electronic use by drivers, the study results said.
Study authors speculated that the age and income levels may influence the number of drivers who had cell phones available to them or were inclined to use the devices while they were driving. They said there was also a possibility that cell phone reception isn’t as readily available in rural areas, skewing the results.
A national study showed “virtually no change in the percentage of drivers text-messaging or visibly manipulating hand-held devices,” the Chicago Tribune reported. Cell phone use was higher for female drivers than for males, and highest among drivers between 16 and 24 years of age.
Violators of the Illinois hands-free law face fines that start at $75, rising to $100 for a second offence and $125 for a third offense. Fourth and subsequent offenses can be fined $150 each and, after four violations, the state can also suspend the driver’s license. Distracted drivers convicted of injuring others on the road also face up to $2,500 in fines and up to a year in jail. A distracted driver convicted in connection with someone’s death could face a fine of up to $25,000 and up to three years in prison.