SPRINGFIELD — Illinois motorists could face a $75 fine if they are caught using their cellphone without a hands-free device beginning Jan. 1.
In action Friday, Gov. Pat Quinn signed the new rule into law, as well as a proposal that increases the penalties where any use of an electronic device while driving is the cause of an accident.
“Distracted driving is not only dangerous — it’s deadly,” Quinn said in a prepared statement. “Too many Illinois families have suffered because of accidents that could have been prevented. Anyone driving a car should be careful, responsive and alert behind the wheel. These new laws will save lives.”
The new hands-free driving law comes after Illinois lawmakers already banned texting while driving. They also earlier made it illegal to talk on a cellphone while driving through a school zone or a construction zone.
In adopting House Bill 1247, Illinois becomes the 12th state — and the first in the Midwest — to prohibit the use of a hand-held cellphone while driving, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Quinn cited statistics showing that distracted driving caused 387,000 injuries and more than 3,000 fatalities across the country in 2011.
The bill’s sponsor in the House said the law will help reduce those numbers.
“When motorists are on the phone, they are not giving their full attention to the most important task they have,” state Rep. John D’Amico said in a statement.
The governor also approved House Bill 2585, which boosts penalties to up three years in prison if a motorist causes a fatal accident while using an electronic device.
In the meantime, Quinn used his veto pen to strike down House Bill 3139, a proposal to allow drivers to provide insurance cards digitally.
Supporters said electronic identification cards — which could be shown to police via a smartphone — are more convenient and can help reduce time spent addressing tickets issued because drivers forgot or misplaced the paper cards.
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