You already know texting behind the wheel dramatically increases the risk of an auto accident. Illinois is cracking down on distracted drivers with a new law on smartphone use that took effect on July 1, 2019. Texting and driving is now charged as a moving violation and carries increased penalties.  

Read on to learn more about why the state implemented this new regulation and how it will impact drivers. 

Prohibited behaviors 

The new law prohibits any use of a handheld mobile device while driving, including but not limited to texting, navigating and playing music with your smartphone. Laptops, tablets and personal digital assistants also fall under the list of disallowed devices for drivers.  

If you are parked on the side of the road or contacting emergency personnel, however, you have not committed a moving violation. The state also permits hands-free phone use with an integrated Bluetooth system. If you are sitting in traffic or at a red light, you must put your car in neutral or park if you want to use your device.  

Penalties for distracted driving 

The first offense of this kind carries a $75 fine, and the fine increases by $25 for each subsequent offense. Drivers convicted of three or more moving violations in a single year face a one-year license suspension. Previously, law enforcement would give a driver a warning for his or her first offense and levy a fine for subsequent offenses. 

Importance of the new law 

Although the dangers of distracted driving are well-known, less stringent penalties have not been effective in thwarting this risky behavior. The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 600,000 drivers are using their devices behind the wheel at any given moment. The agency also estimates that driving while distracted is six times more dangerous than drunk driving.  

When you get behind the wheel, put your phone in the backseat or otherwise out of reach. Invest in a hands-free device if you frequently need to navigate from your phone.