The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Top News

December 23, 2013

Cellphone law new challenge for drivers in 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — For incessant multitaskers who can't stop talking while driving, life will include some bitter medicine when the new year rolls in.

Starting Jan. 1, motorists can talk and drive only if they use a hands-free device to conduct cellphone conversations. That will dramatically change the day-to-day routine for millions of Illinoisans, or force them to shop around for yet another high-tech device for the car.

The uniform ban supplements the state's current ban on texting and replaces assorted local laws on cellphone use that vary from town to town, including Chicago, where a cellphone ban has been in place since 2006.

Violators face fines starting at $75, and repeat offenses bring the possibility of a suspended license.

The thought is sobering for Josh Clark, who commutes 30 miles from his home in Lincoln to work in Springfield each day. Clarks says he spends, on average, 75 percent of his car time on the phone, and foresees a different kind of distraction and inconvenience with the new rules and people using hands-free phone technology.

"Getting it (the Bluetooth) to sync is more distracting than holding a phone to your ear," Clark said.

State Sen. John Mulroe, a Chicago Democrat who sponsored the law, said witnessing several near-accidents during trips to Springfield convinced him that "hands on the wheel and eyes on the road are the way to go." While he says the law won't eliminate distractions, he hopes it'll cut down on accidents.

Here's how the new law will work:

BANNED:

The new law bans drivers from using a mobile phone unless they use hands-free technology to conduct a conversation. A driver is allowed by law, however, to press a single button on a phone to begin or end a conversation.

EXCEPTIONS:

The law permits exceptions on the ban during emergencies, or if a driver is parked on the shoulder. A driver also will be allowed to use a hand-held cellphone if a car is in neutral or in park, or if the car is stopped because normal traffic is obstructed.

ELSEWHERE:

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 12 states along with the District of Columbia prohibit using hand-held cellphones while driving. A total of 41 states and the District of Columbia ban text messaging.

OPTIONS:

For starters, turn off the cellphone. If that's not possible, there are a number of wireless technology solutions that allow electronic devices to connect remotely. Some newer cars have built-in systems that sync cellphones with car speakers. Owners of older vehicles can buy kits that integrate their phones and stereo systems. A driver also could use a headset, but state law mandates that it cover only one ear.

PENALTIES:

Violators will be fined $75 for a first offense, and as much as $150 for repeat offenses as well as having a moving violation on their driving record. Three moving violations within a year could lead to a driver's license being suspended.

A separate new law increases penalties for distracted drivers found to have caused crashes. Distracted drivers causing injuries face up to a year in prison, and up to $2,500 in fines. Drivers involved in fatal accidents face fines of up to $25,000 and three years in jail.

SIDE-SWIPED:

Mulroe, a former Cook County assistant state's attorney, said he pushed the law after being nearly sideswiped on Interstate 55 by a woman twirling her hair with one hand and talking on the phone with the other.

"She must have been driving with her knees," he said. The father of four said he began to think about the safety of his kids, whose "phones are attached to their hands and it's hard to keep conversations with them."

SAFETY:

Evidence is mixed on whether the law will improve safety. The U.S. Department of Transportation says you're four times more likely to be injured in an accident if you're on a hand-held phone. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit organization funded by auto insurers, says it's not clear if there's a difference between having the phone to your ear and using a hands-free device, after studying crash data in four states before and after cellphone bans.

 

1
Text Only
Top News
  • Defend 'Obamacare' unabashedly, some Democrats say

    With enrollments higher than expected, and costs lower, some Democrats say it's time to stop hiding from the president's health care overhaul, even in this year's toughest Senate elections.

    Republicans practically dare Democrats to embrace "Obamacare," the GOP's favorite target in most congressional campaigns. Yet pro-Democratic activists in Alaska are doing just that, and a number of strategists elsewhere hope it will spread.

    April 17, 2014

  • Search for Chicago site for George Lucas museum

    As Yoda might say: A site for a museum you must find.

    Those are the marching orders Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is giving a dozen civic leaders as the city searches for a potential location for an interactive museum to house filmmaker George Lucas' collection of art and filmmaking memorabilia.

    April 17, 2014

  • Illinois unemployment drops to 5-year-low

    State officials say unemployment in Illinois dropped in March to 8.4 percent. That's its lowest level since 2009.

    April 17, 2014

  • Gaming commission rejects Cedar Rapids casino

    The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission rejected a proposed $164 million Cedar Rapids casino Thursday, saying it would hurt existing casinos.

    Supporters of the Cedar Crossing Casino development have said it would give an economic boost to Cedar Rapids and the region. They also argued it would be a catalyst for development in an area ravaged by a 2008 flood, create jobs and generate millions for tax revenue and charities.

    April 17, 2014

  • Iowa Senate race suddenly more competitive

    A catchy political ad and a gotcha video have raised Republican hopes of capturing the Senate seat in Iowa, a prospect that would greatly enhance the party's chances of regaining control of the Senate.

    Republicans are adding the seat, held for three decades by retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, to their list of winnable races in the November midterm elections.

    April 17, 2014

  • Evacuation came too late for many on sinking ferry

    An immediate evacuation order was not issued for the ferry that sank off South Korea's southern coast, likely with scores of people trapped inside, because officers on the bridge were trying to stabilize the vessel after it started to list amid confusion and chaos, a crew member said Thursday.

    Meanwhile, the coast guard said it was investigating whether the ferry's captain was one of the first ones off the sinking ship.

    April 17, 2014

  • Putin hopes no need to send troops into Ukraine

    Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday rejected claims that Russian special forces are fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine, but recognized for the first time that the troops in unmarked uniforms who had overtaken Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula before its annexation by Moscow were Russian soldiers.

    April 17, 2014

  • AGENDA: 4-21-14 Clinton School Board Committee of the Whole

    The Clinton Community School Board will meet April 21 at 6 p.m. at the Clinton Administration Center.

    April 17, 2014

  • Study: Diabetic heart attacks and strokes falling

    In the midst of the diabetes epidemic, a glimmer of good news: Heart attacks, strokes and other complications from the disease are plummeting.

    Over the last two decades, the rates of heart attacks and strokes among diabetics fell by more than 60 percent, a new federal study shows. The research also confirms earlier reports of drastic declines in diabetes-related kidney failure and amputations.

    April 17, 2014

  • Let the (real) games begin: It's NBA playoff time

    Finally, the NBA playoffs are set.

    It took the entire season to fill out those brackets.

    Overtime thrillers in Memphis and Charlotte, a go-ahead dunk in Oklahoma City to win a game and cap another scoring title for Kevin Durant, plus some good old-fashioned disinterest by Brooklyn ... all that, and more, on the final night of the season was needed before the eight conference-quarterfinal matchups in this season's NBA playoffs could be decided.

    April 17, 2014

AP Video