SPRINGFIELD — A proposal to ban the use of hand-held cellphones while driving a car was endorsed in a House committee Wednesday.
“A hand-held cellphone is a huge distraction while driving a car,” said state Rep. John D’Amico, D-Chicago, who sponsored the legislation.
Drivers using a hand-held cellphone are eight times more likely to be in an accident, he said, and California experienced a “dramatic” drop in accidents when that state adopted a similar ban.
Illinois already bans texting while driving, and 76 communities across the state have some restrictions on use of hand-held cellphones while driving, which was one reason a Verizon representative testified in favor of the measure: Illinois cellphone customers do not know where they might get ticketed.
A trio of Republicans opposed the proposal.
State Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, said he voted “no” because it would permit a law officer to stop a driver who is using a hand-held cellphone “and that’s just too much government.“
“The bill is very well intentioned,” said state Rep. Michael Unes, R-East Peoria, who still voted against the measure because he is concerned individuals who cannot afford a hands-free device may still “have some very valid reasons” for needing to use a cellphone in a car.
State Rep. Kay Hatcher, R-Yorkville, said she opposed a similar measure sponsored by D’Amico last year and she was still against it. She said it posed a hardship on the 8 percent of Illinoisans who must wear some kind of hearing device that makes it harder or more costly to rely on hands-free cellphones.
D’Amico said some hands-free alternatives, such as using a car’s radio as a phone’s speaker, “are no more expensive than a normal cellphone.”
The measure is House Bill 1247.