Hands free is the way to be


With the New Year comes new… laws.  As of January 1st, 2014, the state of Illinois has put numerous new laws into effect.  However, one regulation may affect the average Illinoisan more than others.  2014 has taken on another rule of the road: drivers will be unable to use cell phones in vehicles, unless the phones are hands free.  Mobile phones are still permitted in vehicles if phone calls are held using certain hands free technologies such as Bluetooth devices, earpieces, headsets or speakerphones.

From 2008-2012, almost 6,000 vehicle crashes (including 30 casualties) involved cell phones.  The new 2014 law is expected to decrease the driver’s distraction in vehicles to create a safer driving environment.

While some say that the law is a step in the right direction, such as Officer Dowd, the thought of wondering if it will make a difference is still present.

The distraction of using a cell phone in a vehicle could be viewed as one that lies within the conversation itself and not actually the way the device is being held.  Using a cell phone in a vehicle could be the real distraction, and not the way the device is being held.  Not only will the law help with these phone call distractions, but with cell phone distractions altogether.

Officer Dowd explains that “the law was passed to help close loopholes”.  Before the law was approved, drivers could be pulled over for texting while driving, but describe, for example, that they were simply checking their phone’s calendar.  The new law eliminates the chance of sneaking out of a ticket for those who are creating a more dangerous driving environment.

Illinois drivers can still use their cell phones normally if their automobile is in park, or if they need to make an emergency call, such as making a 911 call to notify police of an accident.  If police officers see that a driver is on the phone using their hands, they will be fined $75 for the first offense.  Offenses after that will go up by $25 until a fourth offense is reached at $125.  After the fourth offense, the Secretary of State can suspend the driver’s license.

Although the law has just recently been put into effect, don’t expect officers to be lenient with cracking down on drivers.  Drivers should be aware of the law and follow it immediately to be safe on the road and to avoid any unwanted tickets.