State House OK’s Bill Banning Cell Phone Use While Driving

By Kim Bellware

Illinois could soon join the ranks of 10 other states that ban motorists from hand-held cell phone use while driving.

Late Friday evening, the State House approved a the bill in a 64-46 vote that moves the bill to the state Senate for consideration, reports NBC Chicago.

“A hand-held cellphone is a huge distraction while driving a car,” said Rep. John D’Amico, a Chicago Democrat and the bill’s sponsor, according to NBC.

Under the proposed law, drivers caught talking on a phone while driving could be stopped and ticketed by police, reports CBS Chicago; three violations in a year could mean a revoked license for drivers caught flouting the law. Hands-free options like Bluetooth devices, speakerphones are safe under the bill, which also makes exceptions for two-way mobile radios, and for using a cell phone in a emergency.

Though the law is proposed as a safety measure, opponents aren’t short on arguments against it.

Rep. Mike Bost, a Murphysboro Republican, likened the proposed ban to an Orwellian “Big Brother” crackdown, reports the Tribune, while others say the bill is unfair to people with hearing problems and low-income drivers who can’t afford the technology that would remain legal.

Glenview Democrat Laura Fine had a different — and poignant — take, according the Tribune. The lawmaker’s husband lost an arm in a crash caused by a distracted driver and told the House, “A phone call is not that important. If your family is impacted by a distracted driver, it is devastating.”

House Bill 2417 is a re-run of a similar bill died in the State Senate last year, though Illinois lawmakers did successfully ban texting while driving back in 2009.

In 2012, the state also enacted a law banning drivers’ cell phones within 500 feet of an emergency scene, and construction or school speed zones.

Talking on a cell phone while driving is a distant memory for Chicagoans since 2005, while WGN reports 75 other communities in the state have bans on talking on the phone while driving, as well.

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