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Two New Illinois Laws

October 2012

By: Nancy E. Joerg, Esq.

In case readers of the Illinois Client Update are not already aware of this new Illinois legislation, I thought it was important to share the following summaries of TWO BRAND NEW ILLINOIS LAWS:

1. Cell Phones and Emergency Areas: Drivers may not use cell phones within 500 feet of an emergency scene. PA 097-0828 (Effective 07/20/12)

Illinois lawmakers have amended section 12-610.1 of the Illinois Vehicle Code to prohibit anyone, at anytime, regardless of age, from using a wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle within 500 feet of an emergency scene (625 ILCS 5/12). An emergency scene is defined as a location where an emergency vehicle authorized by the Code is present and is using its oscillating, rotating, or flashing lights. (This new law makes an exception for reporting an emergency situation.)

The amendment also adds photographs and videos to the Code's definition of "electronic message."

2. Commercial Drivers and Cell Phones: Commercial drivers may not text or use cell phones while driving. PA 097-0829 (Effective 1/1/13)

Illinois lawmakers have amended the Illinois Vehicle Code to prohibit texting and limit the use of cell phones by commercial drivers (625 ILCS 5/6-500, 5/6-526 new, 527 new).

First, the amendment prohibits a driver from texting while driving a commercial motor vehicle. Similarly, a motor carrier may not allow its drivers to text while driving.

"Texting" includes both entering and reading text from an electronic device. The amendment lists the following activities as examples of prohibited texting: 1) short message service, 2) emailing, 3) instant messaging, 4) Web browsing, 5) pressing more than a single button to make or end a call, and 6) other forms of electronic text retrieval or entry for communication. Electronic devices include cell phones, PDA's, pagers, computers, and other texting devices.

Second, this new law prohibits a commercial driver from using hand-held mobile phones in the following ways: 1) using at least one hand to hold a mobile phone or make a call; 2) pressing more than one button to make or receive a call; or 3) reaching for a mobile phone by leaving the seated driving position required by proper seatbelt use. Motor carriers may not allow its drivers to use a cell phone in a way prohibited by the amendment. A mobile phone is defined as a mobile communication device that uses a commercial mobile radio service recognized by the FCC. Two-way or citizens band radio services are not affected by the amendment.

The following activities are not prohibited by this new Illinois law: 1) use of a GPS or navigation system; 2) pressing a single button to start or end a call; and 3) use of a device that can perform multiple functions for a non-prohibited purpose. Additionally, this new Illinois law does not apply to situations where the vehicle is safely stopped on the side of, or off, the road.

Questions? Call Attorney Nancy E. Joerg of Wessels Sherman's St. Charles, Illinois office: 630-377-1554 or email her at najoerg@wesselssherman.com.