At the stroke of midnight New Year’s Eve, several new vehicle and driving laws went into effect for the state of Illinois, changing the way people can use the roads.
Beginning on Jan. 1, drivers in Illinois are required to use a Bluetooth headset or speakerphone while talking on their cell phone. This new law is in accordance with House Bill 1247 amending the vehicle code and making drivers hands-free, McLean County Sheriff Mike Emery said.
“All the officer has to do is see you talking on your cell phone and driving,” Emery said. “He has the legal authority to pull you over and write you a citation.”
The fine for a first time offender is $75 and is not a moving violation. The second offense rises to $100, the third $125, the fourth $150 and these are all moving violations.
After the fourth offense the Secretary of State’s office has the ability to suspend or revoke a person’s license, Emery said.
An estimated 24 percent of all traffic crashes or 1.2 million per year are linked to motorists texting or talking on cell phones according to the National Safety Council. House Bill 1247 was created in an effort to curb this statistic, Emery said.
Concurrently, House Bill 5099 was passed prohibiting drivers from using a mobile phone within 500 feet. of an emergency scene. This would make it illegal for drivers to use a cell phone at all in this area even if they used a hands-free device.
Senate Bill 2356 amended the vehicle code on Jan. 1 by increasing the speed limit to 70 mph in designated areas.
Some of the areas include any interstate highway, all or part of highways that are designated by the Department of Transportation and roads which have a separation between the roadways moving in opposite directions.
The roads with an increase in speed limit must have four lanes too.
“I think one of the main reasons to increase it to 70 mph is that all the states around us have speed limits of 70 mph,” Emery said. “It kind of brings Illinois into compliance with what other states are doing across the nation.”
One stipulation with the new law is the immediacy for drivers to go 70 mph. Until all new speed limit signs are installed, drivers are to obey posted speed limits of 65 mph.
Emery in summation discussed how these laws will make the roads a safer place and the reasoning behind the legislature.
“Well I think it all falls into the big package of this legislation,” Emery said. “I think whenever you can extract out the distracting driving people are paying more attention to the roadway. I think all of these laws are geared to making Illinois roads much safer.”