Illinois drivers who ignore the state's new, and much stricter, cellphone law could be making an expensive mistake and a dangerous one.
Beginning July 1, anyone caught with a cellphone in his or her hand while driving will get a ticket for a moving violation. No warnings. No "I'll let it go this time." A ticket. It will cost $75 for the first ticket; $100 for the second ticket; $125 for the third; and $150 for every one after that. And three moving violations in a year will cause the offender's license to be suspended.
Also, seeing someone using a hand-held cellphone now is reason enough for a police officer to make a traffic stop.
Drivers still can use a cellphone in hands-free mode or with a headset, but if it's in your hand, it's basically a violation.
Sitting at a traffic light with your car still in drive? A violation.
Just checking the time by picking up your phone? A violation.
It remains a violation to use a cellphone in any way within a school zone; within 500 feet of an emergency scene; in a construction zone; or if the driver is younger than 18.
Pulling into a parking lot or onto the shoulder of the road with your vehicle in park to take a call or text? Not a violation.
The aim of the law is to combat distracted drivers. It's been illegal to text while driving in Illinois for several years, but it's not unusual to see a fellow motorist with his eyes looking downward as he taps out a text instead of watching the road ahead. Such situations, whether on a city street or the interstate, create a hazardous situation not only for the offending driver but for all those with whom he or she shares the road.
Illinois and Indiana emergency crews have had to respond to some serious accidents this summer, and distracted drivers contributed to the cause.
The easiest remedy, if you lack the willpower to ignore the ring of an incoming call or the chime of a text's arrival, is to just turn off the phone while driving. Few situations in life can be so crucial that they are worth putting yourself and those around you in jeopardy just to type "Lol!" to a friend's joke.
Traffic crashes are no joke. Leave your phone alone while driving.