Drivers who ignore the state's hands-free cellphone law may want to reconsider, especially if they travel through Lombard.
Police last week launched their first monthlong enforcement campaign in Lombard, focusing strictly on ticketing people using hand-held cellphones while behind wheel.
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Sgt. Joseph Grage said this is a good time to start the campaign because most schools begin classes in less than three weeks.
"We want to get people concentrating on the road, especially with the kids starting to come out in the morning, coming to and from school," he said.
In addition, the department is trying to reduce the number of rear-end accidents. Grage said they account for about 33 percent of all accidents each year and often are caused by distracted driving.
The state law, which took effect Jan. 1, prohibits talking on anything but a hands-free mobile device while driving. Fines for violators begin at $75. Repeat offenders could pay $150 and eventually have their driver's licenses suspended.
During the first few months of the year, violators were shocked when they were pulled over, and many said they didn't know talking on a hand-held cellphone was illegal outside of Chicago, Grage said.
"It's a behavior a lot of people do," he said. "(The law) needed a little more publicity."
Besides fees for violators who are caught using their hand-hand cellphones, the law also includes stricter penalties when electronic devices are being used at the time of a collision.
Drivers using a hand-held cellphone at the time of a crash that causes great bodily harm can face up to a year in prison. Fatal crashes involving the use of a hand-held cellphone by the driver carries a prison sentence of up to three years.
Since the beginning of the year, Lombard police have issued about 375 tickets to people who were either talking without using a hands-free device or texting on their cellphone while driving, Grage said.
Grage admitted it can be tricky to enforce the law. Often, he said, violators who get fined had their phone to their ear, which is obvious and easier to catch than texting.
During the monthlong campaign, police also will be stationed in "zones" with the sole purpose of spotting cellphone violators, the same way they crack down on seat-belt use or speeding.
"There's a rhyme to the reason here," Grage said, noting that people still need to be educated about the law. "Just getting it out there is part of getting compliance."