Last updated: January 31, 2014
Cell phone, texting news: A law prohibiting driving while using handheld cell phones and similar electronic communications devices went into effect Jan. 1, 2014. Tickets may be slow in coming, as patrol officers say they’ve been overwhelmed with weather-related traffic incidents.
Gov. Pat Quinn signed the distracted driving legislation into law Aug. 16. “Too many Illinois families have suffered because of accidents that could have been prevented,” Quinn said. “Anyone driving a car should be careful, responsive and alert behind the wheel.”
Sponsor state Rep. John D’Amico said: “I’m very happy that House Bill 1247 passed. I believe this law will become an important tool in making our roadways safer.”
The changes brought by HB 1247 amend the existing Illinois text messaging & driving law to include handheld cell phones and similar devices. The final House vote of May 28 was 69-48, basically the same count as on first approval of March 1. The Senate vote of May 23 was 34-20.
House sponsor D’Amico did not oppose the Senate’s change stipulating that a first offense is not a moving violation. The bill is a rerun of D’Amico’s HB 3972 of 2012, which also cleared the House by a similar margin but faded in the Senate.
The law replaces a crazy quilt of local laws, most created because the Legislature failed to act. D’Amico told Hands Free Info it took so long to push through a hands-free law because, “To this day, there still are some who won’t accept that using a cell phone behind the wheel can be fatal.
“Hopefully, this law will bring increased attention to the issue.”
- Drivers 18 and younger are prohibited from using wireless phones while driving — with or without hands-free devices.
- All drivers prohibited from text messaging and related activities such as emailing and Internet use.
- All drivers prohibited from use of handheld electronic communications devices. Effective Jan. 1, 2014.
- Motorists prohibited from use of cellular phones in school speed zones and construction/road maintenance zones.
- Within 500 feet of an emergency scene, cell phone use and taking of photos or videos on wireless devices prohibited.
- In Chicago, all drivers talking on mobile phones must use hands-free devices. Text messaging prohibited while driving. Fines: $100-$500.
- At least 70 other municipalities have their own handheld cell phone laws. They include Highland Park, Winnetka, Evanston and Deerfield.
Read the Illinois text messaging law.
Cell phone, text messaging legislation (2013):
HB 1247: Would prohibit driving while using a handheld electronic communications device. Fines: $75 (first offense), then $100/$125/$150 for subsequent offenses. Amends current texting law. Add exemptions such as single-button activation of cell phones and two-way radios. OK’d by the Transportation: Vehicles and Safety Committee on Feb. 20, in a 5-3 vote. Approved by the full House in a 64-46 vote March 1. Approved by the Senate Transportation Committee in a 12-3 vote of May 1. Senate Floor amendment stating that a first offense is not a moving violation approved by Transportation (May 15) and the Senate (May 16). Approved by the Senate in a 34-20 vote of May 23. Latest action: Final sign-off in the House in a 69-48 vote of May 28. Signed by the governor Aug. 16 as Public Act 098-0506. Takes effect Jan. 1, 2014. (D’Amico)
House Bill 2410: Would allow automated traffic photographs in construction or maintenance zones to be used as evidence that a driver violated the cell phone law. (Hoffman)
HB 2412: Would provide for assumption of reckless driving in cases of a death resulting from use of a cell phone in a school zone or construction area. Cleared by the Judiciary Committee on March 21. (Hoffman)
HB 2413: Would remove from cell phone laws the exemption allowing use of mobile phones with a single button press to initiate or terminate calls. Amended March 15 to exempt hands-free device built into the vehicle. Approved by the Transportation Committee in a 5-1 vote March 6. Amended to exempt in-dash voice-controlled operation (March 15). Consideration postponed in House on April 19. (Hoffman)
HB 1010 aka Patricia’s Law: Prohibits “court supervision” in cases where the defendant’s violation of traffic laws leads to death of another person. Amended to apply to drivers with previous serious traffic convictions. Inspired by a distracted driving fatality sentence. Approved by the Transportation Committee on Feb. 20. Approved unanimously by the House in a 94-17 vote of March 1. Amended and then approved unanimously by the Senate on May 21. Final House approval in a 114-3 vote of May 29. Signed by the governor Aug. 5 as Public Act 098-0169. Effective Jan. 1, 2014. (D’Amico)
Distracted driving notes (2013):
Senate sponsor John Mulroe, D-Chicago, said to fellow senators during debate on the handheld device bill: “I don’t want you to end up under a semi-truck with your head cut off or you crashing into a tree or oncoming traffic.”
Opponents charged the bill was a loss of personal liberty: “This is just one more step toward us losing essential freedoms in the interest of safety,” state Sen. Matt Murphy said during Senate debate May 23. Sen. Dave Syverson charged: “It’s going to make a lot of criminals of individuals who are conscientious drivers.”
Highwood’s ban on use of handheld wireless devices while driving goes into effect Aug. 1, 2013. The Lake County municipality classified electronic distracted driving as a moving violation.
Sen. John Mulroe, D-Chicago, the Senate sponsor of the handheld cell phone bill, said crashes decreased by 17 percent in the Chicago suburb of Evanston after the city banned handheld cell phones for drivers.
State Rep. Kay Hatcher, R-Yorkville, opposes the ban on handheld cell phones because some people with hearing aides can’t use hands-free attachments. “I believe that it goes against the Americans with Disabilities Act and is prejudicing against folks with little means,” said Hatcher, who wears a hearing aid.
State Rep. Jay Hoffman has a trio of distracted driving bills before the House. They include a plan to allow automated photo systems installed in restricted zones to identify drivers violating cell phone & texting laws.
About 3,500 tickets were handed out for texting while driving in the law’s first three years, WLS reported in late February 2013.
Jan. 1, 2013, brought a few changes to the distracted driving landscape in Illinois.
One new law bars commercial drivers from texting or using handheld cell phones while driving, bringing the state into compliance with federal transport law.
Another adjusts current restrictions on cell phone use in school and roadway work zones. It expands the definition of highway work zones while allowing for voice-activated and one-button use of cell phones in school and roadway work zones.
A 2012 law prohibiting use of cell phones within 500 feet of an emergency scene went into effect immediately in July.
“Our goal is to drive zero fatalities to reality, and these new measures take us another step in the right direction,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider.
All three measures were signed by Gov. Pat Quinn on July 20, 2012.
Hinsdale has adopted a general distracted driving ordinance. The village, located about 20 miles west of Chicago, will allow for a 6-month warning period. About 10 drivers had been warned as of mid-February. Distracted drivers cannot be cited unless they commit a related moving violation such as weaving. “We are not saying it is illegal to talk on a cell phone,” the police chief said. Distracted behaviors also include reading, writing, grooming and interacting with pets. Fine: $75, no report to the state. The Village Board vote of 4-2 came Dec. 11.
2012 cell phone/text messaging legislation:
House Bill 5101: Prohibits commercial drivers from using handheld mobile phones or engaging in texting while driving. Amends existing code to include texting or using a handheld cell phone as a “serious traffic violation.” Latest action: Signed into law July 20 and effective Jan. 1. (House: D’Amico) (Senate: Sandoval)
HB 5099: Prohibits use of cell phones within 500 feet of an emergency scene. Exempts reporting of the emergency. Adds “digital photo” and video to definition of electronic messages. Similar to SB 3663, below. Appears to be a repeat of 2011′s HB 1984. Approved by House Transportation Committee on Feb. 29. Approved by the House in a 62-38 vote taken March 9. Approved by the Senate in a 38-17 vote May 17. Final vote by House (84-30) on May 28. Signed into law July 20 and took effect immediately. Read the roadway cell phone law. (House: Costello) (Senate: Haine)
Senate Bill 2488: Expands definition of highway work zones. Adds exemptions to existing law barring the use of cell phones in school and roadway work zones. Allows for voice-activated and single-button cell phone use in these zones. Latest action: Signed into law July 20 and effective Jan. 1. (Senate: Garrett) (House: May).
House Bill 3972: Seeks to prohibit use of handheld electronic devices by drivers. Includes use of cell phones. Hands free and voice-operated OK. Fines: $75, then $100, then $125, then $150. Similar to HB 3970, above. Amended and approved by the Transportation: Vehicles and Safety Committee on Feb. 8 (voice vote). Amended by the House on Feb. 21 to specifically exempt two-way radio and citizens band. Approved by the House in a 62-53 vote of March 8. Died in the Senate. (House: D’Amico) (Senate: Mulroe)
HB 3970: Would outlaw use of handheld electronic communications devices while driving. Includes use of cell phones. Hands-free operation OK. (May)
HB 4009: Would change definition of highway work zones for purposes of the existing cell phone ban in those areas. (May)
HB 5325: Would punish drivers under 18 who violate the text messaging law with license or permit cancellation. No new license for six months, or until driver turns 18. (Eddy)
HB 5863: Would change prohibition against use of a cell phone in a construction or maintenance speed zone to apply only when workers are present. Allows for cell phone use while driver is in a traffic jam caused by the construction. Held by Transportation Committee on March 27. (Rose)
SB 3537: Seeks to create a general prohibition against distracted driving. Includes use of a “wireless telephone or other electronic communication device,” texting, grooming, eating. Violators must commit another offense while distracted. Moving violation with secondary enforcement. “Held” by Criminal Law Committee on March 27. (Millner)
SB 3663: Would bar use of cell phones within 500 feet of an emergency scene. Similar to HB 5099, above. Approved by the Criminal Law Committee on March 7. Approved by the Senate in a unanimous vote March 29. In the House. (Senate: Haine) (House: Mathias)
Distracted driving notes (2012):
The parents of a Downers Grove boy left in a vegetative state after a crash are campaigning for stricter distracted driving laws. The driver, Timothy J. Hagan, was convicted Nov. 15 of failure to yield to the 14-year-old the bicyclist. Hagan received a $1,500 fine and 300 hours of community service. Terra Ihde, the mother of the injured boy, said prosecutors weren’t allowed to use phone records to determine if a wireless device played a role in the accident.
The Evanston City Council was considering a total ban on use of cell phones and other portable electronic devices while driving — handheld or hands-free. A committee approved the plan in a 4-1 vote in March. The plan, if ever approved by the City Council, would be the nation’s most restrictive distracted driving law. In 2010, the Chicago suburb banned the use of handheld cell phones and text messaging while driving.
Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton, wrote his HB 5099 in order to protect law officers and other emergency workers. It would prohibit the use of handheld cell phones within 500 feet of an emergency zones. In February 2010, a state trooper making a stop was seriously injured by a motorist distracted by her cell phone call. “The Illinois State Police is pleading with the motoring public to please try to eliminate all the distractions in your vehicle, including electronic devices,” State Police said in response. Costello’s bill was approved by the House on March 9.
Rep. John D’Amico, D-Chicago, said of his plan for a handheld cell phone ban: “What we want to do is put some teeth into it and make it a ticketable offense” — as in a moving violation. Infractions of the state’s existing laws are now basically equipment violations. D’Amico and his Transportation: Vehicles and Safety Committee fine-tuned and approved his House Bill 3972 on Feb. 8. The House followed March 8.
D’Amico hopes his HB 3972 will unwrap the crazy quilt of handheld cell phone laws across the state: “You go from town to town, and you don’t know what the law is,” he said.
State Rep. Karen May says her hands-free bill (HB 3970) is not “slam dunk legislation, but I think it has a chance to pass. “I view this as just moving the ball down the court,” she told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Sen. John Millner, R-West Chicago, says his general distracted driving bill is for “the people who can’t chew gum and walk.”
Senate President John Cullerton says “it might be inevitable” that Illinois will ban the use of cell phones by drivers.
“There’s not a big difference between whether you’re holding a phone or whether you’re not holding a phone,” Cullerton, D-Chicago, told the State Journal Register on Jan. 3, 2012. “It’s not what’s in your hand, it’s what’s in your head.”
Cullerton, who has sponsored several bills on highway safety, says he left the introduction of distracted driving legislation to other legislators. Sen. John Millner chimed in with a general distracted driving measure that includes grooming and eating.
About 4,100 traffic stops were made in 2011 for violations of Illinois’ prohibitions on texting while driving and using cell phones while driving through school zones and construction zones. Texting drivers received 839 tickets, while violators in the restricted zones piled up 1,880, state police said. The number of stops is almost half of those made in 2010.
The Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on Traffic Safety was expected to meet in January in an effort to find ways to cut down on deaths and injuries from distracted driving and other causes. The panel was created by a legislative joint resolution in November.
Lake Forest is studying two plans targeting cell phone users and other distracted drivers. The City Council debated the proposed ordinances Jan. 3, 2012, but took no immediate action. The conversation is expected to continue Feb. 21. The police chief favors a straight ban on handheld cell phones, while the other proposal takes aim at a variety of distracted behaviors such as eating and grooming. Northern neighbor Lake Bluff has begun talks about similar laws with the backing of its police.
As the year began, Illinois State Police warned commercial truckers that they’ll be subject to citations under the new federal ban on handheld mobile devices. The state also adjusted its speed limit for trucks with the New Year.
An Evanston alderwoman says she’ll push for a total ban on cell phone use by drivers in the Chicago-area municipality. Jane Grover of the 7th District was behind the 2010 ordinance that banned handheld cell phone use by local drivers. “I’m just hoping that we have a really robust discussion about cognitive impairment and the dangers of driving while operating a cell phone — even if we aren’t successful in banning hands-free phone use,” she told the Daily Northwestern. A recent study of suburban ticketing found Illinois’ existing distracted driving laws were barely being enforced.
2011-12 cell phone/text messaging legislation (still pending):
House Bill 3849: Would apply laws regarding use of electronic communication devices while driving to bicyclists. Hands free OK. Bicyclists may use devices on shoulder of road. Approved by the Transportation Committee on Feb. 8, 2012. (Cassidy)
HJR 8: Calls on state, county and municipal law enforcement officers to log instances of cell phone involvement in vehicle crashes. Would create statewide study of that data starting in January 2012 (or 2013 per amendment). Latest legislative action: Resolution adopted by the House on May 31. (Bradley)
HB 865: Creates the Cellular Phone Use and Automobile Accidents Reporting Act, which would require state, county and local law enforcement officers to report on any cell phone involvement in a vehicle crash. Two-year study of the results would begin January 2013. Latest legislative action: Approved by the House on April 12, 2011. Sent to the Senate on May 11. No activity since. (D’Amico)
SB 2135: Would mandate teaching of distracted driving dangers — such as cell phone use and text messaging — by all commercial driver training schoolteachers. Stalled in Senate (Assignments) since July 23. (Garrett)
HB 2185: Earmarks $1.5 million for the Department of Transportation for distracted driving education. No activity since Feb. 22. (Madigan)
HJR 35: Created Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on Traffic Safety. Resolution adopted by both houses on Nov. 9. (D’Amico)
2011 distracted driving notes:
At the end of 2011, Illinois State Police said they’ve issued 19,540 citations and written warnings since the state’s first distracted driving law took effect on Jan. 1, 2010.
Deerfield’s law against use of handheld cell phones while driving took effect Nov. 1. Highland Park’s ban on handheld cell phone use while driving went into effect June 1, 2011. Lake Forest is considering a similar law.
Bicyclists in Chicago are prohibited from using handheld cell phones and texting as of November. Alderman Marge Laurino’s plan sailed through the City Council on Oct. 5.
Laurino, who describes herself as “proponent of cycling,” said the idea was to “level the field” with motorists, who are banned from texting and talking in city limits.
Fines are $20 to $50 (first offense) up to $100 (third violation). They can hit $500 if an accident results. Bicyclists will be allowed to make cell phone calls if a hands-free device is used.
Chicago police issued almost 23,300 tickets in 2010 for use of handheld cell phones in city limits. That record number of citations is up 73 percent since 2006, the first full year of the ban, the Chicago Tribune reported in November.
Deerfield’s village board has approved an ordinance that would ban use of handheld cell phones. The law went into effect Nov. 1, with police issuing warnings for a couple of weeks. Fines: $120-$500. The Deerfield board voted unanimously to ban hand-held cell phones on Oct. 19.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White is reconvening his advisory committee on distracted driving. The focus will be on education and public safety campaigns. “No driver has any business text messaging while they are driving,” White said in early June.
Miss Illinois Hannah Smith is using her time in the spotlight to campaign against distracted driving. She’s making her away around the state talking with high school students about the too-often tragic results of texting and driving. Miss South Dakota, who lost her brother in a wreck linked to distracted driving, also lobbied for an end to texting & talking while driving.
A House resolution approved May 31 calls upon Illinois law enforcement to track cell phone involvement in vehicle crashes. The results would be part of a two-year study to determine the dangers of cell phone use while behind the wheel.
Distracted driving due to texting or cell phone calls caused or contributed to more than 1,000 vehicle crashes in Illinois during 2010, preliminary figures show.
A Chicago alderman has floated a proposal that would require all cell phones sold in the city to come equipped with software that would prevent their use while driving. “Parents don’t have the knowledge, they don’t have the ability” to install apps that shut down cell phones when a vehicle is in motion, Alderman Edward Burke said May 4.
FocusDriven, the Department of Transportation and the National Safety Council hosted the Illinois Distracted Driving Summit on April 21. DOT chief Ray LaHood opened the conference by citing a “tremendous grassroots groundswell against distracted driving.” FocusDriven co-founder Jennifer Smith said, “I challenge families and friends of distracted driving victims nationwide to hold their own state summits and demand action in their communities.” Smith is an Illinois resident. The summit was in the village of Addison, west of Chicago.
The state started 2011 with a new “Drive Now. Text Later” campaign. Organizers pointed to a survey suggesting that as many as 40 percent of motorists on the Illinois Tollway don’t know it is illegal to text while driving on state roads and highways. State Trooper Starlena Wilson is one of the campaign’s founders; she suffered a broken hip and fractured leg in a distracted driving accident in 2010.
Highland Park’s City Council voted Jan. 10 and then again on Jan. 24 to prohibit handheld cell phone use while driving, after flirting with an all-out ban on cell phones. The new law goes into effect June 1, with fines of up to $75.
Highland Park Mayor Michael Belsky and council members Scott Levenfeld and Steven Mandelout held out for a complete cell phone ban. “I strongly feel that the (state) Legislature is not doing their job here,” Belsky said. “They should be looking at these things statewide.”
Highland Park’s new law makes violations primary offenses, an upgrade from the secondary status assigned in the city’s existing negligent driving ordinance. An October 2010 survey of residents found that 80 percent wanted a hands-free law, while 47 percent were in favor of a total ban (support overlapped).
Illinois state police reported in late December that they’ve stopped 7,800 drivers for cell phone and texting violations in 2010. Texting and driving led to almost a thousand tickets. The construction and school zone laws resulting in 4,236 citations and 2,629 warnings for the year.
Illinois residents who lost loved ones in distracted driving-related accidents can post temporary highway memorials as of Jan. 1, 2011. The existing law allowed for memorials only when drunken drivers were to blame.
2010 distracted driving notes:
Plainfield, a suburb of Chicago, has enacted a law against distracted driving. Before getting a ticket, offenders must exhibit poor driving linked to activities such as use of a cell phone, texting, eating or putting on makeup. Fines $120, no points. A 30-day warning period began in mid-October 2010. The Plainfield police chief called the new law “mostly a public relations gimmick” to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving among teenagers.
Chicago’s City Council increased penalties for talking on a handheld cell phone while driving as of Feb. 21, 2010. The fine for driving and cell-phoning increased from $20 to $100. If an accident results, the fine jumps to $500.
2010 cell phone/text messaging legislation:
HB 4937: Would expand the Illinois ban on text messaging while driving to include talking on handheld cell phones. Operation with hands-free accessories OK. (Beaubien)
HB 5454: Seeks to amend the text messaging law to include a ban use of all non-standard electronic communications devices such as handheld cell phones, text messaging devices, PDAs. Hands-free allowed. (May)
SB 3199: Rewrites law related to school bus drivers to mandate they carry an active cell phone or have a working two-way radio while on the job, for purposes of communicating with school officials. Final legislative approval in late April. Became state law July 16, 2010. (Rose-Eddy) Similar: SB 3199 and HB 6073.
HJR 0097: Joint resolution that would direct state police to compile statistics on cell phone use and accidents, and asks police to note cell phone use while reporting accidents. (Bradley)
2010 cell phone/texting legislation notes:
Evanston’s City Council has approved a ban on the use of handheld cell phones and text messaging while driving. Fines $50-$200. The Feb. 8 council vote was unanimous. Alderman Jane Grover said Jan. 5, 2010, that the intent is “to make our ordinance more seamless with Chicago’s.” She added later: “I’ve been thinking about it for years. Every time I drive in Chicago I put the phone away,” she said.
Parents picking up kids are confused by the state’s new ban on use of handheld cell phones while driving in school zones, according to the Chicago Tribune. Schools have been notifying parents and police appear to be mostly issuing informal warnings. The city of Oregon announced a crackdown on Feb. 23.
The statewide ban on texting while driving has not yielded a citation in the counties of Morgan, Scott, Greene, Brown and Schuyler, the Journal Courier reported March 8. Prosecutors blamed the lack of a handheld cell phone ban because texting and entering a number on a cell phone look the same from outside a vehicle.
Illinois House Bill 71: Outlaws text messaging while driving. Texting permitted if the vehicle is stopped in traffic. Fines are $75. Approved by the Illinois House on April 1, 2009, and by the Senate on May 19. Sent to the governor after final House approval on May 28. Signed into law on Aug. 6 and took effect Jan. 1, 2010.
Illinois House Bill 72: Would ban drivers from using cell phones in school speed zones and construction/road maintenance zones. Approved by the Illinois House on April 1 and by the Senate on May 19 and again by the House on May 28. Signed into law on Aug. 6 and took effect Jan. 1, 2010.
HB 349: Provides for “the offense of distracted driving,” including text messaging, reading a newspaper or map, applying make-up, etc. Bill apparently has been withdrawn by sponsor after unfavorable hearing in the House on March 3.
SB 29: Would penalize drivers who text message behind the wheel.
SB 1299: Would create the offense of driving with a screen device operating. Applies to TVs, video monitors, portable computers that are in full view of the driver. (Silverstein)
2009 legislation notes:
Heard at the text messaging law signing: “It’s really bad that we have to legislate logic,” said Secretary of State Jesse White, a promoter of the measure. “Common sense would tell you that when your eyes are off the road, who’s driving?”
Park Ridge considered, and then dropped, plans for a city ban on the use of handheld cell phones while driving. Police told the City Council on Dec. 15, 2009, that it would be “bad public relations.”
The House legislation that would outlaw texting for Illinois motorists was approved 89-27 in the House and 45-6 in the Senate, which has a traffic safety-friendly president.
Rep. John D’Amico, D-Chicago, sponsor of HB 71 and 72, had predicted that distracted-driving legislation in Illinois would “get a lot of traction” this year.
“I think this is one small step toward eventually banning hand-held cell phones like they do in Chicago, I think that’s where we’re going,” D’Amico told the Chicago Tribune.
An unusual objection to Rep. Robert Pritchard’s distracted driving bill HB 349 was that police would use the law to pull over black drivers and harass them. Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, raised the issue in committee and voted against the text-messaging bill when it came to the Senate floor, saying it was “an invitation for abuse.”
Fines for driving and using a handheld cell phone in Chicago were increased by the City Council panel on Feb. 11, 2009. The fine for talking without a hands-free device is $100, from $75. Drivers involved in crashes while holding cell phones will pay a fine of $500, up from $200. The new fines will “drastically reduce the use of cell phones,” Traffic Committee chief Patrick O’Connor said. The Chicago fines for cell phoning and driving take effect Feb. 21.
Rep. Robert Pritchard, R-Hinckley, of HB 349 told the State Journal-Register: “I think we need to do something to encourage people to be more attentive to the art of driving. It is not something that we can put on automatic pilot.”
SB 140, which prohibits young drivers and school bus drivers from using cell phones, went into effect Jan. 1, 2008.
Chicago’s ban on hand-held cell phone use by drivers took effect in the summer of 2005. The ban on text messaging while driving was added in October 2008. “Drivers need to keep their eye on the road, not the Internet,” said Alderman Edward Burke, author of the texting bill.
A legal challenge to Chicago’s ordinance was thrown out of court in July 2008. A lawyer sought to have all tickets voided and fines returned. The judge ruled city street safety justified the ordinance. Violations in Chicago bring $75 fines.
HB 4739, which would have required adult drivers in Illinios to use hands-free devices on cell phones, was tabled (killed) by sponsor Rep. William Black, R-Danfield, in March 2008.
In 2006, the House and Senate ordered a DOT study of cell phone distractions and their role in traffic accidents.
A hands-free bill also was tabled in the House in 2007.