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New Distracted Driving Law in Illinois

distracted driving

Using electronic devices while driving is as dangerous as drunk driving. Recently, texting has become the most common cause of distracted driving accidents. A U.S Department of Transportation 2015 report shows the danger. Distracted driving crashes caused 3,5000 fatalities and about 400,000 injuries.

According to the CDC, 1/3 of drivers from the age of 18 and 64 read emails and text while in traffic. From 2011 to 2015 the electronic device related accident spiked from 50,000 to 70,000.

Unlike increased DUI penalties, the number of car accidents has not dropped. Official believe that distracted driving accidents have filled the gap.

Distracted Drivers in Illinois

The Illinois Department of transportation observed 33,666 drivers in a recent study. The study showed 3.9% of female drivers used a hand-held electronic device. Additionally, men used their devices more often (10.2%).

The study also showed, that the city of Chicago at 17.6% had the highest diver electronic device use compared to upstate counties such as DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Will and Winnebago at 12.6%. The downstate counties had the lowest amount of usage.

Comparing Distracted Driving to DUIs

In an experiment conducted by Car and Driver magazine, sober drivers who text or read emails while driving take longer to react to an alert than drivers with a blood alcohol content of .08. In some instances, device-distracted driving is more dangerous than DUI.

Increased Penalties in Illinois

Illinois has imposed stricter penalties starting in July 2019. Drivers caught texting and driving will face stricter penalties for violating the law. The penalty could lead up to judge’s suspension of the violators license. This puts Illinois in line with other states taking this danger seriously. For example, in California, they ban all talking, texting and the use of any handheld phones while driving.

The new law goes in effect on July 1, 2019. The law states that anyone who illegally uses a handheld electronic device while driving will get a ticket for a moving violation.  Cristina Castro, Elgin Democrat, says the penalties under the old law has not done enough to deter the drivers from using electronic devices while driving. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, in 2017, 9% of Illinois drivers were observed to be using electronic devices while driving. In the same year, police issued 35,036 tickets for texting or talking while driving.

The new law plans on only changing the penalty under the old law. The old law implemented in 2014 is still intact. The ban under the old law is:

  • Using the speakerphone while holding a cellphone is a violation of the law
  • Use of hands-free devices or Bluetooth technology is allowed only for people older than 18.
  • Drivers may use handheld cell phones only to report an emergency, while parked on the shoulder of a road or if the vehicle is in park or neutral while normal traffic is obstructed — such as at a stoplight or train crossing.
  • Headsets — other than a single-sided headset or earpiece — are prohibited.

It is legal to press a single button to start or end a phone call.

About the Firm


Ronald F. Wittmeyer, Jr. practices plaintiffs' personal injury law at his office in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

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