State senate votes to ban cellphones while driving

  • The Illinois Senate voted to ban cellphone use while driving.

    The Illinois Senate voted to ban cellphone use while driving. File photo

Updated 5/23/2013 6:11 PM

SPRINGFIELD -- Lawmakers are on a path to telling Illinois drivers that holding a phone while behind the wheel is distracting, unsafe and banned.

The Illinois Senate Thursday voted to ban the use of cellphones behind the wheel unless the driver uses a hands-free device.


The proposal now goes back to the Illinois House, which has already approved a similar plan.

Just Wednesday, lawmakers approved raising interstate and tollway speed limits to 70 mph. So Gov. Pat Quinn could have a busy summer of tough traffic safety decisions ahead of him if the House sends him the cellphone ban, too.

A first offense for talking on a handheld phone while driving would carry a $75 fine and the cost of a ticket would rise to $150 by the fourth time.

Lawmakers already banned texting and driving starting at the beginning of 2010.

Fans of CB radios don't have to worry. Those are exempted from the ban.

The distraction of talking on a phone while driving can lead to crashes, and the proliferation of cellphones has led to a greater concern about gabbing behind the wheel.

State Sen. Melinda Bush, a Grayslake Democrat, told a story on the Senate floor of a suburban girl who was driving and talking on the phone when her car hit a patch of ice. The girl lost control of the car and died.

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"If both of her hands had been on the wheel, maybe she'd still be alive today," Bush said.

But some critics argue hands-free devices might be just as much a distraction as a cellphone.

The Senate approved by a 34-20 vote. Suburban lawmakers were split.

State Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, argued it shouldn't be up to government to tell people not to talk on the phone while driving.

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