The legislature passed a law in Illinois in 2009 that prohibits texting while driving. The law went into effect on January 1, 2010. The law is set forth in the Illinois Vehicle Code at 625 ILCS 5/12-610.2.
The statute prohibits more than just texting, however. A driver cannot text, instant message, email, or surf the web while driving, with either a cell phone or a laptop computer.
The offense is a petty offense which has a penalty of fine only. The maximum fine for texting while driving, or any petty offense for that matter, is $1,000.00.
Texting while driving is a moving violation in Illinois, and therefore, it can result in a suspended license. The general rule is two moving violations in any two-year period will result in a suspended license for drivers who are younger than 21 years of age. For all motorists who are 21 years old or older, three moving violations in one year can result in the Secretary of State imposing a driver’s license suspension.
The law provides a few exceptions to the ban on texting while driving:
- Police officers may text while driving provided it is in the course of their employment.
- It is not unlawful to text while driving if the person is reporting an emergency.
- It is legal to text while driving if the cell phone is in hands-free or voice-activated mode.
- A driver of a commercial motor vehicle is allowed to use a computer device as long as it is permanently installed in the vehicle, and the screen is not larger than 10 inches wide by 10 inches in height.
- It is not against the law to text while parked on the shoulder of the road.
- It is legal to text if the vehicle is stopped because traffic is obstructed and the transmission is in neutral or park.
The Illinois ban on texting while driving has particular penalties for drivers who are younger than 19. The general rule is, unless they are dialing 911 to report an emergency, drivers under 19 years of age cannot use cell phones while driving whatsoever.
This new law has been used by law enforcement as probable cause for traffic stops. Once a vehicle is pulled over, the police are permitted to ask questions that can provide information establishing probable cause for other offenses such as driving under the influence, possession of cannabis or controlled substances, etc.