With distracted driving a growing problem throughout the nation, the state of Illinois is taking steps to address the problem that should be emulated by other legislative bodies.

Starting July 1, drivers caught using hand-held cellphones or other “electronic communication devices” which includes anything from personal digital assistants to portable or mobile computers can be ticketed.

Global positioning systems, navigation systems and devices that are physically integrated into the vehicle are not considered “electronic communication devices.”

Under the Illinois statute, a cellphone cannot be used in your hands at all unless one of the following exceptions applies:

  • Using the cell phone to call for emergency assistance
  • Using the cell phone in “hands-free” mode or with the use of a headset
  • Using the cell phone while parked on the shoulder of a roadway
  • Using the cell phone on the roadway if the normal flow of traffic has stopped or obstructed and you have your vehicle in park or neutral.

Citations issued under the new law have a maximum fine of $75 and costs for a first offense, $100 and costs for a second offense, $125 and costs for a third offense and $150 and costs for a fourth or subsequent offense.

In Illinois, according to Illinois Legal Aid, drivers under 19 can never use cell phones – even ones that are hands-free – except in case of emergency to contact a law enforcement agency, health-care provider or emergency services agency.

These are tough steps, but distracted driving is a tough problem and one that should be attacked more aggressively by lawmakers – including those in Iowa.

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