ILLINOIS — Illinois drivers this summer will face more serious penalties for texting behind the wheel.
House Bill 4846, which takes effect July 1, will count first-time incidences of driving while operating a handheld mobile device as a “moving violation.” Under state law, moving violations appear on motorists’ driving record, and drivers who receive three moving violations in a year see their driver’s license suspended.
Current law treats first offenses of distracted driving as a “nonmoving violation,” so only repeat offenses appeared on motorists’ driving record.
First-time moving and nonmoving violations both carry a fine of $75 dollars, which increases gradually with each additional offense.
Former Gov. Bruce Rauner signed HB 4846 into law in August 2018. Gov. J.B. Pritzker is considering a proposal that would increase the initial fine to $1,000 in the event that distracted driving causes an accident resulting in serious bodily harm, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Under the new law, drivers may not operate a mobile handheld device for any reason while the car is in “drive,” including for GPS or music control.
The law makes some exceptions: Drivers using a handheld device to contact emergency personnel, for example, would not face a fine; nor would drivers using their mobile devices while parked on the side of the road.
A study by Volvo found that 71% of Americans admit to using their phone while driving despite knowing it is illegal, and that younger drivers are less likely than their parents to use their phone while on the road.
NHTSA also found that 25% of police-reported collisions involve drivers using their cellphone, and that texting while driving is six times more dangerous than impaired driving.
Looking away from the road for just five seconds at 55 miles per hour is the equivalent of driving distracted for the length of a football field, according to NHTSA.
By imposing stiffer penalties, state lawmakers and law enforcement officials hope to minimize drivers’ electronic distractions while behind the wheel.