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Article updated: 8/16/2013 7:19 AM

White: Quinn set to ban handheld cellphones while driving

Gov. Pat Quinn could decide to ban handheld cellphone use while driving.

Gov. Pat Quinn could decide to ban handheld cellphone use while driving.

 

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SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign legislation to outlaw talking on a cellphone without a hands-free device while driving, Secretary of State Jesse White said.

If Quinn does sign the bill, Illinoisans could be ticketed $75 for using handheld phones behind the wheel starting Jan. 1, when the law would take effect.

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Bill bans handheld phones while driving

If Gov. Pat Quinn signs legislation to outlaw the use of handheld cellphones while driving:
ŸThe law would take effect Jan. 1.
ŸDrivers could still use cell phones with a hands-free device.
ŸThe Illinois law would be in place everywhere, superceding existing laws in some towns.
ŸThe fine for a first offense would be $75.

Quinn's office won't say what his plans are. "Gov. Quinn supports measures to make Illinois' roads safer and is carefully reviewing this bill," spokesman Dave Blanchette said.

It's already illegal in Illinois to talk on a handheld cellphone in a work or school zone, and it's against the rules to text and drive anywhere.

Some experts question how much such laws reduce the distraction of phone use by drivers. The Itasca-based National Safety Institute suggests the simple process of talking on the phone can distract someone from driving, even if a hands-free device leaves both hands available to hold the steering wheel.

Plus, cellphones aren't the only distractions begging for drivers' attention. During the Illinois House debate over the legislation, Democratic state Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo told of a time he drove with a Wendy's Frosty in one hand and a cigar in the other.

"If anyone deserved a ticket that day, I'm sure I did for having a Frosty and smoking a cigar with a window open," Franks said.

In the end, though, lawmakers' cellphone safety concerns prevailed, and they sent the legislation to Quinn.

Chicago and some suburbs already have their own bans on handheld phones for drivers, but Quinn's approval would mean they would be banned everywhere.

Quinn faces multiple traffic-safety questions still this summer. In addition to the cellphone legislation, Quinn soon must decide whether to OK state Sen. Jim Oberweis' proposal to raise the speed limit on interstates and tollways to 70 mph.

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