First-Time Distracted Drivers Will Face Stiffer Penalties in Illinois
Despite nearly a decade of ad campaigns and new laws intended to deter Americans from using handheld electronics while driving, bad habits persist. A recent survey found that half of US drivers still talk on handheld cellphones, 35 percent text message, and 29 percent admit to accessing the internet while driving. Distracted driving rates are even higher among drivers aged 18 to 29.
The definition of distracted driving includes talking on a handheld cellphone, texting, using the internet, or otherwise engaging with a handheld electronic device while driving. These behaviors remain a major concern for highway safety. Driver distraction plays a role in 10 percent of all fatal crashes and 15 percent of all injury crashes in the U.S., according to the latest available figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration .
Penalties for Use of an Electronic Communication Device While Driving in Illinois
In an effort to improve highway safety, the Illinois legislature has voted to increase the penalties for distracted driving, as defined in Section 12-610.2 - Electronic Communications Devices (ECD) of the Illinois Vehicle Code. The new law, signed by Governor Rauner in August 2018, will take effect July 1, 2019.
Under the existing Illinois law, which took effect in 2014, first-time offenders got a $75 fine but did not get a moving violation on their driving record. Under the new law, first-time offenders are still fined $75 but it will now be counted as a moving violation on their driving record.
Fines increase by $25 for each subsequent violation to a maximum of $150 per offense. In Illinois, most moving violations remain on your driving record for four to five years from the date of the conviction; this is how the police will know whether a given ECD violation is a first, second, third, or subsequent offense.
Texting and Driving Can Lead to Driver’s License Suspension
A person convicted of three moving violations within one year will have their driver’s license automatically suspended by the Illinois Secretary of State’s office. Drivers will receive notification by mail when their license is suspended. This is a good reason to keep the address on your driver’s license up-to-date. If you do not realize your license has been suspended, and you keep driving, you could be charged with driving on a suspended license, which is a Class A misdemeanor.
You should also know that a successfully completed court supervision for a moving violation does not count as a conviction on your driving record. The Secretary of State’s office does, however, maintain records on who has received court supervisions. Illinois allows drivers no more than two court supervision sentences per year for moving violations.
Aggravated Use of an Electronic Communication Device
The penalties remain the same for the offense of aggravated use of an electronic communication device, that is, when a driver is distracted by ECD use and is involved in a motor vehicle accident that causes great bodily harm or death to another person. This offense is a Class A misdemeanor if someone is severely injured or a Class 4 felony if someone dies as a result.
Fight Back with a Will County Texting-and-Driving Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony related to use of an electronic communication device (ECD) while driving, you will want a lawyer at your side when you go to court. An experienced Joliet driver’s license reinstatement lawyer can help you fight a DUI-related suspension and also help you get a suspended license reinstated as quickly as possible. Call the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba at 815-740-4025 for a free consultation to discuss your situation.