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Drop It and Drive program a reminder about Ilinois hand-held cell phone ban

Before you touch the steering wheel, make sure you turn your cell phone off.
Before you touch the steering wheel, make sure you turn your cell phone off.
(Shamontiel L. Vaughn)

While New Year's Eve partygoers were celebrating, they may have missed the new cell phone law. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, hand-held cell phone usage is banned while driving, as of Jan. 1.

There was already a ban on any driver under 19 and school bus drivers using any type of cell phone while driving. All drivers, including school bus drivers and novice drivers, are banned from texting while driving.

Drop It and Drive is putting out reminders this week to remind Chicagoans about the new law. According to their site, 6,000 car crashes occurred from 2008 to 2012 and police officers documented that there was some form of cell phone use to distract the driver. Thirty of them resulted in deaths.

Illinois is the 12th state to enact the hand-held phone ban law. The other 11 states are Calif., Conn., DC, Del., Hawaii, Md., Nev., N.J., N.Y., Ore., Wash., and W.Va.

Additional states are a bit more specific. In Vt., the ban is only in work zones. In N.M., the ban is only for in-state licensed vehicles. In Ark., they focus on drivers ages 18 to 20 probably because they're more likely to be novice drivers.

Punishment in Ill., for driving while using and/or holding a cell phone:

  • $75 fine for drivers caught using a hand-held cell phone
  • $150 fine for repeat offenders
  • Driver's license suspension for continued illegal usage
  • Stricter penalties for crashes involving electronic devices
  • One year in prison if the crash causes bodily harm
  • Three years in prison if the crash results in a fatality

While not talking on the phone may be easier to do than using a phone for navigational purposes, Drop It and Drive encourages drivers to program their devices beforehand. Or, safely pull over if a driver gets lost while traveling.

The total amount of crashes in Cook County for 2012, according to the Illinois Dept. of Transportation, were 131,402 total (252 were fatal and 26,624 included injuries).

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