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Can I Use My Cell Phone While Driving?

Cell-Phone-Distracted-Driving-Ticket-300x226Illinois does not allow motorists to use their cell phone for talking, texting, or using any other means of electronic communication while they are operating their motor vehicle on a public road. The only way you can use your cell phone while driving is through Bluetooth technology, provided that you are 19 and over. In the last couple of years, tickets issued for using cell phones while driving have become common. The laws regarding use of a cell phone while driving have undergone several changes throughout the years. As a result, many motorists are not fully aware of what the rules are when it comes to using their cell phones while driving. Most of the clients who I meet for cases like this frequently tell me that they did not know how restrictive the cell phone usage laws are in Illinois. I want to take this opportunity to explain the cell phone Distracted Driving law in Illinois so that you know what is allowed and what is not allowed in Illinois.

In 2019, the Illinois legislature changed the Illinois Distracted Driving law by imposing stricter limits on the use of cell phones in cars, and making a ticket for using your cell phone while driving a moving violation in Illinois. Before 2019, a ticket for using your cell phone in your car was punishable by a fine only and was not reported to the Illinois Secretary of State so a ticket for using your cell phone would not affect your license. After 2019, a ticket for using your cell phone while driving is considered a moving violation which will be reported to the Secretary of State and will go on your driving record and affect the status of your driver’s license. A ticket for using your cell phone will never be removed from your driving record, regardless of what happens with the ticket.

What Is Not Allowed

-You are prohibited from touching your cell phone while driving your vehicle. This means that you cannot pick up your cell phone to make a phone call, read or send a text message, browse the internet while driving, or check the GPS on your phone.

-All drivers are prohibited from using a cell phone (even hands-free) when in a school zone and construction zone.

-You cannot use a cell phone to take pictures or record a video within 500 feet of the scene of an emergency.

-School bus drivers are prohibited from using any cell phone whatsoever, including hands-free.

-58% of accidents involving teenage drivers involve the use of cell phones. Therefore, drivers under the age of 19 are not allowed to use their cell phones for any reason, including hands-free.

What Is Allowed

-You are allowed to use your cell phone to report an emergency situation.

-You are allowed to use your cell phone if your vehicle is parked on the shoulder of the roadway.

-You are allowed to use your cell phone if your vehicle is stopped in traffic that is being obstructed for some reason, provided that your vehicle is in neutral or park.

-You can use your GPS, or a navigation application on your phone, as long as the device is mounted in your vehicle and not being touched, except to turn the device on or off.

– You are allowed to use a CB radio or a mobile radio transmitter while operating your motor vehicle.

Can I Use a Wired or Wireless Headset While Driving?

Yes, provided that the device is placed in only one (1) ear. If you are using a headset on both ears, you will be ticketed for Distracted Driving. This is probably the most commonly misunderstood prohibition when it comes to using your cell phone while driving.

Can I Be Pulled Over Just For Using My Cell Phone?

Yes. This subject is another major source of confusion and misunderstanding for Illinois motorists. When the first laws were enacted in Illinois to deal with cell phone usage, police officers were not allowed to pull over and ticket drivers merely for using their cell phones. In other words, a violation of the cell phone law alone could not be the primary reason for a motorist to be pulled over. You had to be pulled over for another reason, such as speeding, and the cell phone violation ticket was the secondary reason for being ticketed. Since the early laws were enacted, they have been changed to allow the police to pull you over for using your cell phone. Using your cell phone can now be the primary reason for you being pulled over. It can even be the only reason.

Are The Cell Phone Distracted Driving Laws Different for CDL Holders?

Yes. The same rules that prohibit the use of handheld electronic devices apply to CDL holders. However, CDL holders are allowed to use a device to read messages that is permanently attached to the vehicle that is designed to receive messages and is not bigger than 10 inches by 10 inches. A conviction for using a cell phone for a CDL user is now considered a major violation which could lead to the suspension or revocation of your CDL license. A CDL holder who is convicted of two serious moving violations within 3 years will have their CDL license suspended, or disqualified, for two months. A third conviction within 3 years will lead to a four-month suspension, or disqualification, of your CDL license. A CDL holder will also face penalties from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the federal agency that regulates CDL holders, that could add up to up to $2,750 in fines. Your employer could be find up to $11,000 if they were found to be at fault for you using an electronic device while driving. The CDL penalties will apply to a motorist regardless of whether they were driving a commercial vehicle or their personal vehicle at the time of the violation.

James Dimeas is a nationally-recognized, award-winning, traffic ticket lawyer, with over 28-years of experience handling traffic offense cases throughout Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, and Lake County. Recently, James Dimeas was named a “Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer in the State of Illinois for the years 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021” by the American Society of Legal Advocates. James Dimeas was named a “Best DUI Attorney”, a “Best DUI Lawyer in Schaumburg”, and a “Best Criminal Defense Lawyer in Chicago” by Expertise. James Dimeas was named a “Top 100 Criminal Defense Trial Lawyer” by the National Trial Lawyers. The National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys gave James Dimeas the “Top 10 Attorney Award for the State of Illinois”. James Dimeas is rated ‘Superb’ by AVVO, 10 out of 10, the highest rating possible for any traffic lawyer in the United States. The American Society of Criminal Law Attorneys named James Dimeas a ’10 Best Attorney for Client Satisfaction”. Attorney and Practice Magazine gave James Dimeas the “Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorney Award for Illinois”.

If you receive a cell phone Distracted Driving ticket, you can contact James Dimeas anytime for a free and confidential consultation. You can speak to James Dimeas personally by calling him at 847-807-7405.

Additional Resources:

Illinois Distracted Driving Law, 625 ILCS 5/12-610.2.

Additional Blogs:

Can I Really Go To Jail For Speeding, by James G. Dimeas, Chicago Criminal Lawyer Blog, November 9, 2019.

Illinois Now a Hands-Free Zone. Cell Phone Usage for Motorists Prohibited, by James G. Dimeas, Chicago Criminal Lawyer Blog, July 10, 2019.