New Texting and Driving Laws in Illinois

August 12, 2019
 

Andrew Bequette from the University of Illinois College of Law

University of Illinois College of Law

If you’re using your cell phone, texting, or another electronic communication device while driving right now, you’re in violation of Illinois law.

According to the National Safety Council, cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes annually.  A person may not operate a motor vehicle on an Illinois roadway while using an electronic communication device.  Illinois law defines an electronic communication device as including cellular phones, hand-held personal digital assistants, a portable or mobile computer, but does not include a GPS or navigation system or a device that is physically a part of the motor vehicle.

While previously illegal in the state of Illinois to use a non-hands free cell phone while driving in the state, the first offense was not considered a moving violation for the purposes of reporting to the secretary of state and for insurance purposes.  However, in August of 2018, Governor Bruce Rauner signed legislation which made all cell phone and texting offenses a moving violation.  This law went into effect on July 1st of this year.  There is a $75 fine for a first offense, $100 for a second offense, $125 for a third offense, and $150 for a fourth offense.  A driver who receives three moving violations in the State of Illinois during a 365 day period will have his or her driver’s license suspended.  A driver who is not yet 21 can have his or her license suspended for two moving violations within a two year period.

Moreover, on July 19th of this year, Governor J. B. Pritzker signed a law which makes it a Class A misdemeanor where a person is using an electronic device while driving resulting in great bodily harm, permanent disability, or disfigurement to another person.  If a death results from the accident it is a Class 4 felony.   These violations are called aggravated use of an electronic communication device and these drivers will have their licenses suspended for one year.  Additionally, Class A misdemeanors carry up to a year in jail and a possible $2,500 in fines.  Individuals convicted of a class 4 felony can face 1 to 3 years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine.  These harsher penalties went into effect immediately on July 19th once the bill became law.

Among the exemptions in the law, a driver may use a device for the purpose of reporting an emergency situation.  A driver may use a device in hands-free or voice-operated mode, which may include the use of a headset, though drivers under the age of 19 cannot use cellular phones while driving even if they are hands free devices.  The law does not apply while parked on the shoulder of a roadway.  Also, a driver may use a device while the vehicle is stopped due to normal traffic being obstructed and the driver has the motor vehicle transmission in neutral or park.

So if you’re driving in Illinois only use a hands free cell phone and don’t text.  And for those of you listening who may be heading into Indiana today, it is illegal to text while driving there, too.