Besides being a bad idea, texting while driving is also illegal in 39 states, including Illinois. In 2009, the Illinois’ legislature passed a law banning texting while driving; it was implemented on January 1, 2010 (Illinois Vehicle Code, 625 ILCS 5/12-610.2).
Beyond texting, this law also prohibits sending instant messages or email and browsing the internet, on both mobile phone and laptops. Texting while driving (along with the other activities excluded by this law) creates physical and mental distractions; the driver’s mind can’t concentrate on driving, and his or her eyes are taken off the road. Texting also requires keeping at least one hand off the steering wheel; all of these distractions and handicaps are dangerous, and have led to sharp increases in highway fatalities. In 2010, 3,092 people (at minimum) were killed in crashes caused by distracted driveways; this number comes from the US Department of Transportation.
The law in Illinois has a graduated fine and penalty scale; the first offense for texting while drive is a fine only, with a maximum penalty of $1,000. It’s a moving violation, so it can resulted in a suspended license. Usually, two moving violations inside of two years leads to a suspended license for drivers who are younger than twenty-one years of age. For drivers over twenty-one, the Illinois Secretary of State can impose a license suspension for three moving violations in one year.
Drivers aged nineteen and younger are banned from using cell phones while driving, except to dial 911 to report an emergency. The Illinois law is being used by law enforcement officers as probable cause for traffic stops; after they pull the vehicle over for texting, they are allowed to ask questions to establish probable cause for other offenses (DWI, DWAI, etc).
There are a few exceptions to the texting while driving ban: police officers can text and drive, as long as relates to their job (but really, is this any safer than any other kind of distracted driving—accidents among law enforcement have been reported); phoning in emergencies is allowed; texting via a hands-free or voice-activated device is permitted; commercial motor vehicles using installed computers are okay (if the screen is under 10 x 10”); and texting while parked on the shoulder, or when stopped in traffic with the vehicle in park or neutral, are also permissible.
Distracted driving causes death, injury, and many thousands of dollars of property damage and medical debt. If you or anyone in your care has been injured due to distracted driving, it’s wise to seek qualified legal counsel to ensure you are fairly compensated, for your medical debt, loss of income, and suffering.