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'Siri, Tell Me About The Hands-Free Law'

Bluetooth headset
Flickr user DeclanTM (Creative Commons)

Jan. 1 brings a new Illinois law that limits talking on the phone while driving. It's often been referred to as "cell phone ban." But it's actually a bit more nuanced.

The law starts out by saying you cannot drive while using an electronic device such as a phone or laptop. But it's not that cut-and-dry. For example, you can place a call if it only requires pressing one button.

SIRI: *ding* MACKEY: Siri, can you make a call for me? SIRI: "With whom would you like to speak?" MACKEY: How about Illinois State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond?

"Hands must be on the wheel, and there will be no more talking on the phone, or using or holding of a cell phone," Bond says.

And that's the key point: using a headset or a speaker phone seems to be legal. But if you're caught holding a phone, the fines start at $75.

Illinois law already bans texting while driving. But the law does not apply to GPS devices, CB radios, or portable music players.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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