Our car accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm would like to highlight the new Illinois traffic laws for 2013. Three key pieces of legislation took effect January 1st, aimed at reducing cell phone use and improving crash-related safety measures.
Two new congressional bills adjust current regulations relating to cell phone use in work zones and clearing highway traffic lanes after crashes. Senate Bill 3409 now allows drivers of vehicles involved in minor crashes to move their cars off the highway to a safe location. This will only apply to accidents where no one was injured or killed and that resulted only in vehicular damage. The approved locations for drivers to move their cars include exit ramp shoulders, frontage roads, nearby cross streets, or other nearby locations that will not interfere with normal traffic flow. The Bill specifically affirms that the drivers must remain at the chosen location until the lawful exchange of information and additional help are completed.
The previous legislation did not specify that drivers could move to another location after a crash, rendering most citizens unaware that such an act was lawful. Illinois transportation officials have seen too many innocent citizens injured and killed on highways after accidents, struck by distracted or speeding motorists or causing additional crashes by obstructing the lanes.
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Two of the bills center on the specificities of cell phone use in work and school zones. Former statutes allowed for phone use in work zones as long as the speed limit was not lower than the normally posted limit. Senate Bill 2488 forbids cell phone use in work and school speed zones regardless of the posted speed limit. The law also expanded the definition of ‘work zones,’ now referring to areas where both construction and road maintenance are being conducted.
Drivers are still allowed to use hands-free devices, including those with single button activation and voice activation. However, those drivers 18 years old and younger are now completely prohibited from using a cell phone while driving, regardless of whether or not it is hands-free. Regarding minor drivers, recent amendments to House Bill 5325, which took effect in 2012, now requires that any minor violating the cell phone use laws will have their license or permit canceled for at least six months or until the minor reaches 18 years, whichever is longer.
House Bill 5101 applies to commercial motor vehicle drivers, defined as drivers of vehicles 26,001 pounds or heavier, designed to carry 16 people or more, or any vehicle carrying hazardous material. Exceptions to this definition include private RVs, fire trucks, military vehicles, police cars, and all other emergency response vehicles. The Bill prohibits drivers of these commercial vehicles from texting or using hand-held cells phones, and increased fines for such violations to a ‘serious’ designation. New laws also adjusted the speed limits for commercial trucks within the state.
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At least 10 Illinois municipalities have their own unique laws regarding cell phone use, including the towns of Highland Park, Deerfield, Winnetka, and Evanston. The Evanston City Council, for example, is considering implementing a new distracted driving law that prohibits any use of cell phones or portable electronic devices while driving, including hands-free and voice activation.
The Illinois Department of Transportation recognizes that distracted driving, by cell phone use, eating, grooming, etc, can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Some officials, including the President of the Senate, consider the complete ban of cell phone use in Illinois inevitable. More than 4,000 Illinois citizens were stopped in 2011 for texting and using cell phones while driving through school and construction zones.
It is important to remember that distracted driving is entirely preventable, and these new laws are intended to save innocent lives. Chicago auto accident lawyers hope that Illinois drivers are taking every precaution to stay safe on our busy highways.