Picture this scenario:
It’s early Monday morning and you are slowly making your way to work through traffic on the highway. (Don’t picture yourself on 90 though, because that would be an absolute nightmare!) No, instead you are cruising at great speed on I-294 when one of your clients gives you a call on your cell phone.
In your line of work, it’s very important that you be accessible by phone, so naturally you answer the call. You drive and talk for about 20 minutes until you start to notice a state trooper trailing closely behind you.
Your heart drops and you start to get a little nervous. You look down at your speedometer though and notice you are only driving five miles above the speed limit. That can’t be it then. You ask yourself, “Did I signal while I was shifting lanes?” He continues to trail closely, but you know you didn’t do anything wrong. Just to be sure though, you let your client know you will give them a call right back. As soon as you hang up the phone, the police lights start up and the sirens start blaring. This is the last thing you need on a Monday morning!
You pull over and you know what happens next. The trooper asks for your driver’s licence and insurance, and asks you if you know why you were pulled over this morning. With a confused glare you say, “Well, I know I wasn’t speeding, so actually, no. I don’t know why I was pulled over.” The trooper looks at you sideways and says, “Well, you were talking on the phone while driving, and in Illinois, that is illegal.”
Illinois Bans Hand-Held Cell Use While Driving
You may be saying to yourself, “Wait a minute, no it’s not. Only texting while driving is illegal in Illinois.” That may be true now, but come January 2014 that will no longer be the case. Just last month Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed two new laws against distracted driving that take effect January 1, 2014. One of those laws prohibits the use of any hand-held mobile device while driving. The other law increases the penalties you would face if you cause an accident from distracted driving.
Needless to say, if you are accustomed to talking on the phone while driving, it is in your best interest to either get a bluetooth device, or start trying to get out of the habit now. We have a feeling that once this law goes into effect, police officers and state troopers will be 100 percent ready to start doling out tickets- if only just to ensure that Illinois residents are aware of the new law.
Over the past few years we have all heard the complaints and assertions that driving while talking on the phone is dangerous. We should all know now that texting while driving is not only dangerous, but deadly. In fact, the USDOT reports that distracted driving caused 387,000 injuries and over 3,000 deaths across the country in 2011. We can all say that distracted driving is dangerous, but when you see the statistics, it is much more real. However, there is no better way to get people to pay attention than to mess with their money.
Fines for Talking While Driving
No one is a fan of fines or moving violations. Unfortunately, the cost of breaking the law can be pretty steep. Under the new law, the fines are as follows:
- Talking While Driving, 1st offense = $75 fine/ticket
- Talking While Driving, subsequent offenses = +$25 for each additional offense with a maximum of $150
- Causing bodily harm in an accident caused by distracted driving = 1 year in prison
- Causing a fatality in an accident caused by distracted driving = 1-3 years in prison
Under the current law, you would only face traffic violations if you caused an accident that resulted in an injury or a fatality. A prison sentence is a pretty steep increase.
Are We Willing To Pay Such Price For Safety?
Although they may make some of our lives a bit more difficult, it is hard to deny the reason these new laws were put in place: safety. If hundreds of thousands of people are getting injured on the roads each year as a direct result of distracted driving, it makes sense to create laws that combat it. However, once laws like this start to go into effect it can be difficult to know where to draw the line.
If talking on a hand-held mobile device while driving is considered a distraction, what about using an iPod in the car or sifting through radio stations? What about talking to a passenger in the car, using a GPS device or eating while driving? These are things that many people do and surely they can distract drivers as well, but there are no laws that prevent them- yet.
If these new laws start to combat distracted driving, how far will they go? How far will the government go to ensure we are all safe on the road? And perhaps the most important question is, how many of your rights are you willing to give up in the name of safety?
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