Illinois Now a Hands-Free Zone. Cell Phone Usage for Motorists Prohibited


As of July 1, 2019, Illinois has become a “Hands-Free Zone”. In 2010, texting and driving was outlawed in Illinois.  In 2014, using your cell phone without a hands-free device was outlawed. But apparently, that was not enough. In 2018 the Illinois Legislature enacted a new Distracted Driving law that substantially increases the penalties for using a cell phone while operating a vehicle on Illinois roads which could lead to the suspension of your Illinois driver’s license.

Distracted Driving is a broad definition which covers more than just the use of a cell phone or an electronic device in your vehicle. You can be cited for Distracted Driving for applying makeup while driving, or looking at a printed map while driving your vehicle. However, the overwhelming majority of Distracted Driving tickets involve the use of a cell phone while driving.

The Old Law

Prior to July 1st, if you were pulled over for using your cell phone and cited for Distracted Driving, the first offense would result in a warning. Any subsequent violations were not considered moving violations. You would pay a fine but a Distracted Driving ticket would not affect your license. As of July 1st, if you are caught using your cell phone and given a ticket for Distracted Driving, the violation would be considered a moving violation. A ticket for Distracted Driving is the same as a Speeding Ticket or a ticket for Disregarding a Traffic Light or Failure to Stop at a Stop Sign. Three Distracted Driving tickets in a one year can result in the suspension of your driver’s license.

The Fines

The fines for a Distracted Driving ticket increased as of July 1st. The first Distracted Driving ticket carries a mandatory fine of $75. The second ticket for Distracted Driving carries a mandatory fine of $100. The mandatory fines increase by $25 for each violation thereafter up to a maximum of $150. In addition to the fines, you will also be responsible for the court costs. As of July 1st, the mandatory court costs in Illinois have substantially increased as well.

What is Allowed and What is Not Allowed

There seems to be some confusion about what is allowed and what is not allowed under the new Distracted Driving law. The new Distracted Driving law covers the use of any electronic device inside a motor vehicle. This includes a cell phone, a laptop, a tablet, or any electronic device. You cannot touch or hold any electronic device while you are driving your car. This means that not only can you not text while driving, but you cannot touch your cell phone to use an app for driving directions. You can look at your phone while using a driving directions app, but you cannot touch your phone. You cannot touch your phone to use a music app on your phone. You cannot pick up your phone and dial to make a phone call or send a text message while your vehicle is moving. Basically, touching your phone while your vehicle is moving can result in a Distracted Driving ticket.

Exceptions – When Can You Use Your Phone

You can use your phone while driving under certain specific and limited situations. The exceptions are as follows:

-If you are a law enforcement officer or an operator of an emergency vehicle, you can use your cell phone if you are performing your official duties.

-You can use your phone if you are reporting an emergency on the roadway.

-You can use your phone in hands-free mode which includes using a headset or a Bluetooth system integrated with your vehicle.

-You can use your phone when your car is on the side of the roadway in Neutral or Park.

– You can use your phone if the normal traffic is a obstructed by something like a train and your vehicle is in Neutral or Park.

According to the Chicago Tribune, last year police issued 15,150 distracted driving tickets in Illinois. Nationally, 3,166 people died as a result of Distracted Driving. While the hope is that these new laws will cut down on the number of deaths due to Distracted Driving, these new strict laws are sure to increase the number of Distracted Driving tickets issued in Illinois.

James Dimeas is a nationally-recognized, award-winning, criminal defense lawyer, with over-27 years of experience handling traffic cases in Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, and Lake County. James Dimeas is rated 10 “Superb” by AVVO, the highest rating possible for any traffic lawyer in the United States. The American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys named James Dimeas a “10 Best Attorney for Client Satisfaction.” Attorney and Practice Magazine gave James Dimeas its “Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorney Award for Illinois.” The National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys gave James Dimeas its “Top 10 Attorney Award for the State of Illinois.” James Dimeas was named a “Best DUI Attorney.” Expertise named James Dimeas a “Best Criminal Defense Lawyer in Chicago.” The National Trial Lawyers named James Dimeas a “Top 100 Criminal Defense Trial Lawyer.” The American Institute of Legal Advocates named James Dimeas a “Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer in the State of Illinois For the years 2018 and 2019.”

If you are being charged with Distracted Driving for using your cell phone while driving, or have been issued a traffic citation, you can always contact James Dimeas for a free and confidential consultation. You can always talk to James Dimeas personally by calling him at 847-807-7405.

Additional Resources:

Using an Electronic Device While Driving, Even if You’re Just Holding it-Becomes a Moving Violation in Illinois, The Chicago Tribune, by Suzanne Baker and Javonte Anderson, June 28, 2009.

Additional Resources:

This is NOT a Simple Speeding Ticket, Chicago Criminal Lawyer Blog, by James G. Dimeas, April 19, 2019.

When Can Speeding Be a Crime in Illinois, Chicago Criminal Lawyer Blog, by James G. Dimeas, September 20, 2018.