You’ve certainly seen the headlines: Train crashes while engineer texts. Or: Bicyclist killed while driver downloads ring tones. In fact, the national Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that driver distraction causes 25% of all police-reported traffic crashes. As a result, state laws have become more tightly defined to include new technologies such as cell phones and text messages.

CELL PHONES: In Illinois, you may not use a wireless phone through school speed or highway construction zones If you are under age 19, you may not use a wireless phone at any time while you hold either an instruction permit or graduated license. It is permissible, however, to use your cell phone for emergency purposes such as if you are a health care provider or if the cell phone is in voice activated mode.

ELECTRONIC MESSAGES: You may not write, send or read text messages, surf the internet, play on-line games or program your phone while driving. You may, however, text while driving to report an emergency. You may also operate the messaging device if your hands are free and it is voice activated. Other exceptions are if you are stopped in traffic and your car is in neutral or park, or if you have pulled over to the shoulder of the road.

A violation of the above is a traffic offense carrying potential fines.

In addition to the Illinois state law, various municipalities have their own ordinances restricting cell phone, internet and texting use. In Chicago, you may be fined $500 if you are in an accident while using your phone in addition to regular fines of $90 to $500 for an offense. Highland Park amended its distracted driving law to require that drivers as of June 1, 2011 may only use cell phones in hands-free mode. The Highland Park negligent driving ordinance already prohibits reading, eating, drinking, grooming, or using computers or phones while driving. A violation carries up to a $500 fine.

Even if a municipality doesn’t specifically mention cell phones or texting, you could still be charged with negligent driving. The Skokie Village Ordinance prohibits driving “negligent, heedlessly and without due caution or in a manner so as to endanger or be likely to endanger any person or property.”

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

About mdkeenan

A criminal and school law attorney with over 17 years of experience, I have successfully represented clients all over the Chicago area. My practice includes DUI, felony, criminal, misdemeanor, homicide, internet crime, retail theft, traffic offenses, cyberstalking, drug crimes, weapons violations, domestic battery and juvenile crime. I also represent families involving school cases. My clients come from all over the Chicago area including Skokie, Wilmette, Niles, Northbrook, Glenview, Evanston, Winnetka, Highland park, Northfield, Park Ridge, Des Plaines and Mount Prospect. I am a member of the ACLU and the Illinois State Bar Association. I serve as a volunteer for First Defense Legal Aid. Se habla espanol.
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