By Jamey Dunn
Starting next year, drivers will have to put down their cell phones before they get behind the wheel.
Gov. Pat Quinn today signed House Bill 1247, which bans the use of cell phones while driving, unless drivers use hands-free devices to talk. “Distracted driving is not only dangerous — it’s deadly,” Gov. Quinn said in a prepared statement. “Too many Illinois families have suffered because of accidents that could have been prevented. Anyone driving a car should be careful, responsive and alert behind the wheel. These new laws will save lives.”
Illinois joins 11 other states and the District of Columbia in banning phones behind the wheel. The state already prohibits texting while driving. The ban on chatting while driving will go into effect on January 1, 2014. “When people get behind the wheel, they have a responsibility to themselves and to others to drive safely,” Chicago Democratic Sen. John D’Amico, who sponsored the bill, said in a prepared statement. “When motorists are on the phone, they are not giving their full attention to the most important task they have. This law will help reduce traffic accidents and make Illinois roads safer.”
Drivers using hand-held cell phones are four times more likely to get in accidents that cause injuries according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. “We want drivers to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel,” Sen. John Mulroe, who sponsored the bill, said in a prepared statement. “The phone call can wait.”
Opponents say the ban is an overreach by government into people’s lives. “This kind of stuff is the ultimate, ultimate in Big Brother,” Rep. Mike Bost, a Murphysboro Republican, said when the bill passed in the House. Bost noted that drivers do many other things behind the wheel — such as applying makeup, disciplining children or eating — that can be distracting and dangerous. “I know it is dangerous, but there’s a lot of things that we do every day while driving in our cars that become dangerous. ... Where do we stop [on bans]?”