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Illinois Cell Phone Penalties and Traffic Tickets

Rolling Meadows Traffic Ticket Attorney

Eating. Smoking. Fiddling with the radio. Entering your destination on GPS. Entertaining children. Carrying on conversation. There are numerous ways that a driver may become distracted, but none compares to the use of a cell phone. Cellular phones play a part in more than a quarter of all vehicle accidents—a statistic that has led to 46 states banning texting while driving and 14 states banning handheld use of phones altogether. Illinois law requires drivers to use "hands-free" technology if they wish to lawfully carry on conversations in the car. Failure to follow Illinois cell phone laws may lead to fines, or even misdemeanor or felony charges in certain instances.

"Hands-Free" Technology

There are two primary concerns when it comes to cell phone use in the car: 1) if your cell phone is in your hand, your hand is not on the steering wheel; and 2) if your cell phone is in your hand, you are likely looking at the phone, rather than the road. Like many laws, handheld cell phone bans are intended to help protect everyone on the road. It is difficult to argue that you can safely check Facebook, take "selfies," and follow your GPS map directions and dedicate the attention necessary to be a safe driver.

"Hands Free" Does Not Mean "Safe"

Despite cell phones being a known cause in 26 percent of the nation's accidents, only five percent of these cell phone-related crashes occurred due to texting. This means that talking on your phone, whether you are holding it up to your ear or speaking into your steering wheel, is the biggest problem, despite contrary belief. In fact, a study in the Journal of Safety Research revealed "driving performance while using a hands-free phone was rarely found to be better than using handheld devices."

Phone distractions are present regardless of whether the phone is in your hand or if you are dictating something to Siri or talking via Bluetooth. We fiddle with speaker volume. We try to improve the connection. We try to figure out how to set up Bluetooth connection in our new cars. We try to answer the phone by pushing on the dashboard and take our eyes off the road while we figure it all out. These are all actions that can have tragic consequences—concerns that are present regardless of whether the conversation is "hands-free".

Illinois Cell Phone Laws

Given that cell phone use is proven to be distracting regardless of whether it is being used hands-free, the best approach is to avoid conducting conversations in the car via phone or text. In Illinois, failure to abide by this rule can lead to legal implications.

It is unlawful to use an "electronic communication device" while driving. A first offense will cost the driver a $75 fine, and the fine escalates with each subsequent offense. The offense may be escalated even further to include Class A misdemeanors or Class 4 felonies if death or serious bodily injury results from the use of such devices. While a fine may not seem like a significant burden to most, taking the life of another or causing serious injury to another is a very real possibility when your eyes are on a screen instead of the road. Failure to follow "hands-free" driving laws for talking on the phone in the car have similar consequences associated with them.

Interestingly, there are a shocking number of exceptions to the laws regarding electronic communication devices, many of which can come into play during a successful defense strategy. For example, it is permissible to use an electronic device if the driver used only a "single button to initiate or terminate a voice communication." There are also "loose" (i.e. non-specific) exceptions such as "a driver using an electronic communication device while parked on the shoulder of a roadway" and "a driver using an electronic communication device when the vehicle is stopped due to normal traffic being obstructed and the driver has the motor vehicle transmission in neutral or park."

This non-specific language can make it very difficult for the prosecution to demonstrate that you violated the law. It also creates an opportunity for an experienced criminal defense attorney to demonstrate holes in the prosecution's account of the events. An officer cannot likely say for certain whether you pressed one button or two, or if your car was "stopped due to normal traffic." These seemingly technical distinctions can make or break a case involving cell phones and all possible defenses should be explored to minimize or eradicate the penalty associated with a cell phone violation.

Rolling Meadows Traffic Violations Lawyer

At the Law Offices of Donald J. Cosley, you can trust that your case will be handled with care from the initial citation all the way through contesting the violation. Regardless of whether this is a first offense or a serious crime in which your cell phone use may have contributed to a serious accident, Attorney Donald J. Cosley can help you navigate your legal concerns.

With an experienced Illinois traffic defense attorney on your side, our office understands that you want to preserve your driving record and avoid serious legal consequences; we will work with you to determine the best legal approach for your unique situation and make sure that you understand what is going on through every step of the process. Serving the greater Chicago metropolitan area, including Cook County, Lake County and DuPage County, we are always available to take your call to provide you with a complimentary consultation. Contact us today at 847-253-3100.

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