Lots of new laws to comply with in 2014. But in the Quad-Cities, none will be tougher than Illinois’ new cell phone ban for drivers.
Both Iowa and Illinois banned texting for all and added further restrictions for teens. But this year, Illinois police can pull over any driver holding a phone and the steering wheel at the same time.
By our count one recent rush hour, that could be at least a fourth of all drivers.
No one should be chatting, texting, tweeting or engaging in any distraction while driving. But we believe the Illinois law goes too far when it penalizes one distracting behavior while ignoring almost others. Eating and personal grooming come to mind.
Plenty of laws exist for police to stop drivers who weave, ignore traffic signals or speed limits, all of which can be consequences of distracted drivers. Illinois’ new law is aimed squarely at those with lower-cost phones and cars. Those with Bluetooth, or vehicle-equipped systems face no risk of tickets.
For everyone else, Illinois’ new law will require some tough behavioral changes, further complicated because they apply to roughly half of our metro area. Will chatty Q-C drivers hang up while crossing a bridge?
The solution, of course, is to silence that cell phone and put it out of reach while behind the wheel. Check texts and make calls before the car is in gear. Then stow the phone and ignore its buzzes and beeps until you’re parked.
Easier written than done, we know, but sound advice, even if Illinois had no such law. But it does. And state police say there will be no grace period. They’ve added illegal phone use to the list of observed offenses that can merit a traffic stop. And they say they’ll write the $75 tickets immediately.
No talking your way out of this ticket. Your phone’s records will rat you out.
So even as we oppose this selective crackdown on this one driving distraction in just one of our two states, we eagerly encourage all drivers in either state to drop the distractions – phones, hamburgers or hairbrushes – and focus on the roadway.
The consequences as we’ve reported too many times can be far worse than a $75 ticket.