Effective January 1, 2014, Illinois joins eleven other states that ban the use of “electronic communication devices” (ECD) while operating a vehicle. ECDs include cell phones, PDAs, and portable computers. The new law will be titled Electronic communication devices, 625 ILCS 5/12-610.2.
Today, Illinois prohibits all drivers from texting or messaging while operating a motor vehicle. The state also bars cell phone use of any kind for drivers who are under 19 years of age. Additionally, Chicago and seventy other communities in the state have enacted their own ordinances to ban the use of hand-held devices while driving.
Currently, Illinois exempts the use of GPS, navigation systems, and devices physically or electronically integrated into a vehicle. Other exemptions in place include use of an ECD: (1) to report an emergency situation; (2) in hands-free or voice-operated mode; (3) while parked on the shoulder of a roadway; (4) while stopped in traffic and the vehicle is in neutral or park; (5) by a driver of a commercial motor vehicle reading a message on a permanently installed device designed for such vehicle; or (6) by an officer or emergency personnel performing official duties.
These exemptions will still apply under the new law banning use of hand-held devices while driving, and will include additional exemptions for:
- Use of two-way or CB radio services;
- Use of two-way mobile radio transmitters or receivers for licensees of the FCC in the amateur radio service;
- Use of an ECD where voice communication can be initiated or terminated by the press of a single button; and
- Use of an ECD capable of performing multiple functions, other than a hand-held phone or PDA, such as a fleet management system, dispatching device, CB radio, or music player, for a purpose that is not otherwise prohibited under the statute.
Further, the new law will permit use of a headset while using a hands-free or voice-operated cell phone while driving.
This new law generally follows the federal regulations already in place for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators. CMV operators may use a mobile telephone using either a wired or wireless earpiece, or the speakerphone function of the mobile telephone. Wireless connection of the mobile telephone to the vehicle for hands-free operation of the telephone, which would allow the use of single-button controls on the steering wheel or dashboard, is also allowed. A driver can initiate, answer, or terminate a call by touching a single button on a mobile telephone, earpiece, steering wheel, or instrument panel – comparable to using vehicle controls or instrument panel functions, such as the radio or climate control system. In order to comply with this rule, a driver must have his or her mobile telephone located where the driver is able to initiate, answer, or terminate a call by touching a single button while the driver is in the seated driving position and properly restrained by a seat belt. If the mobile telephone is not close to the driver and operable while the driver is restrained by properly installed and adjusted seat belts, then the driver is considered to be reaching for the mobile phone, which is prohibited. In that same vein, dialing a mobile telephone while operating a CMV in interstate commerce is prohibited.
With Illinois, the other locations banning hand-held devices while driving include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.