When it comes to the battle against distracted driving, Illinois is taking it up a notch.
No longer will a first offense of texting while driving get you off with a warning. Starting July first, it’s a $75 dollar fine. It’s also a moving violation and three of those in a year brings a license suspension.
Democratic Representative John D’Amico of Chicago pushed for the change as a sponsor of HB4846. He also sponsored the original law against texting while on the road. But he said more needed to be done.
“We’re learning as we go as well. I mean if you go back 15 years ago, we didn’t think cell phones would be this big of a problem driving, right? But you look at it today and it’s a huge problem,” he said.
D’Amico said the goal is to get drivers to understand they should put down their phones when behind the wheel. Nationwide, studies show one in four accidents involve a distracted driver. The number is much higher for teenagers.
“The bottom line is it’s a huge distraction," D'Amico said. "We want to make sure everyone gets from point A to point B in a safe manner and… put the phone down.”
Law enforcement is also getting tougher. The number of tickets issued by state police in 2018 for using a cell phone without a hands free device went up 700 percent from the year prior.