Chesterton Tribune

Be warned: Illinois has new limits on cellphone use for drivers

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FRANKFORT, Ill. (AP) Illinois drivers are coming under more pressure to stay off their cellphones as a result of new measures Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law Friday, including one that bans using a mobile device to take photos near an emergency scene.

Three of the four new laws confront the problem of drivers becoming distracted by talking or texting on their cellphones, something U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has called a "national epidemic." LaHood, a former Illinois congressman, and other federal officials have been calling on states to crack down on distracted driving, which studies have shown is a particularly acute problem among teenage and young adult drivers.

"These new laws will protect children and families and prevent dangerous trends such as speeding and distracted driving," Quinn said.

One of the new measures prohibits the use of cellphones by drivers in all roadwork zones. Previously, that restriction applied only to work zones with speed-limit reductions.

Another measure bars commercial drivers from any hand-held cellphone use, bringing Illinois law in line with federal regulations.

Both of those laws take effect Jan. 1.

One that goes into force immediately makes it illegal to use a mobile phone while driving within 500 feet of an emergency scene. That legislation also expands the definition of "electronic message" to prohibit using a cellphone to take photos near emergency sites.

In Illinois, it is already illegal to send or read text messages while driving. Also, cellphone use is prohibited in school zones.

The National Transportation Safety Board has called on states to get even tougher by considering complete bans on cellphone use by drivers, including the use of hands-free phones. Most studies show that hands-free conversations are just as distracting to drivers as those involving hand-held phones.

Quinn on Friday also signed a bill known as Julie's Law, which targets speeders. The law prohibits courts from granting supervision to anyone charged with doing 30 mph over the speed limit on highways and 25 mph over in urban areas.

It's named after Julie Gorczynski, an Orland Park teen killed in 2011 after her car was hit by a driver going 76 mph in a 40 mph zone. The driver had been previously placed on court supervision seven times for excessive speeding.

Posted 7/20/2012