Workplace Safety in Illinois: new cell phone safety laws in effect for 2013

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Legislation supported by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) aimed at reducing the distractions caused by cell phone use while driving is now in effect as of January 1, 2013.

This legislation “represents another important step in our efforts to combat distracted driving,” said Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, who proposed the legislation. “No driver has any business text messaging while they are driving, especially someone operating a commercial motor vehicle.

Senate Bill 2488 prohibits cell phone use in construction or maintenance speed zones regardless of the speed limit in those zones. Drivers can use cell phones in voice-operated mode, which includes the use of a headset or cell phones used with single button activation. Voice activated use of cell phone was permitted prior to this change. Violation of this law is a serious traffic violation.

House Bill 5101 prohibits texting or using a hand-held cell phone while driving a commercial motor vehicle and makes this a serious traffic violation. Previously, Illinois law prohibited texting while driving for all vehicles, but cell phones were permitted.

Illinois statutes also have been amended to be in compliance with the federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (MCSR) law that prohibits texting and cell phone use by commercial motor vehicle drivers.

According to an IDOT press release, a commercial motor vehicle is a vehicle used in commerce with a weight of 26001 pounds or more (or a lesser weight if determined by the federal government or Secretary of State) or a vehicle designed to transport 16 or more people, or a vehicle transporting hazardous materials. Exceptions are RVs for personal use, military vehicles, fire trucks, police vehicles and other emergency response vehicles.

“People are tragically injured and killed in work zones and by commercial motor vehicles due to distracted driving. Cell phone distractions have been proven to be as dangerous as drinking and driving,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider. “These laws will stiffen distracted driving laws and save lives.”

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