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Does Illinois have a law against texting while driving?

| May 20, 2021 | Motor Vehicle Accidents |

Different driving laws from state to state can lead to confusion. For example, some people think that there are federal rules about drivers texting at the wheel, so state laws don’t matter.

However, the only federal law that prohibits texting or the manual use of mobile technology at the wheel is a rule that applies to those with commercial licenses while they drive a commercial vehicle. The federal no-text rule prohibits the manual entry of data into a phone while at the wheel of a big truck, bus or similar vehicle.

No such rule exists that applies to passenger vehicles at the federal level. Instead, texting while driving and distraction laws must get enacted at the state level. Does Illinois have a ban on texting while driving?

The state updated its policy not long ago

In 2019, Illinois adjusted state laws to expand rules limiting the use of digital technology at the wheel. Now, it is against the law for any drivers on the Illinois road to manually input data into their phones. That includes typing a text message, as well as dialing a phone number.

Adults can side-step the prohibition on mobile technology by using hands-free technology. There are systems that integrate with vehicles and allow for someone to place a call without touching their phone. It’s important to understand that such systems are only legal for adults over the age of 19 to use.

The texting rules in Illinois make hands-free data entry illegal for younger drivers. Those under the age of 19 cannot use talk-to-text programs or Bluetooth headsets to get around the rules against text messages, emails and phone calls while driving.

What are the penalties for texting while driving?

The exact consequences that somebody faces if a police officer catches them texting at the wheel will depend on their driving record and other considerations. However, using mobile devices at the wheel is a moving violation, even if you use them while waiting at a stoplight.

Most of the time, the consequence is a fine that increases with each subsequent violation. If someone causes a crash, the offense could become a misdemeanor. If the crash claims a life, texting at the wheel is a Class 4 felony offense, which could mean fines and jail time.

Those hurt by distracted drivers can potentially file insurance claims or even initiate civil proceedings against the irresponsible driver who hurt them.