By Hilary Russell
A bill prohibiting texting while driving passed in the Senate after a series of amendments were added to clarify when someone could get a moving violation for using a cell phone.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Martin Sandoval, a Chicago Democrat, was pulled last week before a vote could be taken because of numerous concerns about when and where an individual would be allowed to text while behind the wheel.
Sandoval said he worked with members of both political parties to rework the bill to clarify that drivers would not be penalized for using the GPS functions on their cell phones, texting while sitting in traffic jams or at railroad crossings or texting while stopped on the side of the road.
The amended version also defines texting as pushing keys to type an instant message into an electronic device.
Sens. Kwame Raoul and James Meeks, both Chicago Democrats, said they did not vote for the bill because the language remained ambiguous and gave law enforcement too much power. Meeks said it would be virtually impossible for an officer who pulls an individual over to determine from a distance whether the driver was texting, using a navigation system or dialing a phone number. Raoul added that existing laws for improper lane usage already apply.
Sen. Ira Silverstein, a Chicago Democrat, said such safety provisions usually aren’t put in place until after a tragedy. He said Sandoval’s texting ban would be proactive.
The measure now heads to the House, where the changes will have to be approved before the bill heads to the governor’s desk.