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Federal and state laws limiting cellphone use for safety reasons have been increasing throughout the country. Illinois recently passed legislation putting more restrictions on cellphone use on Illinois highways, with the intent of preventing a car accident from happening due to driver distractions. While it is already illegal to use a cellphone in a school zone or to text while driving, the new laws expand the list of prohibited acts. Some laws go into effect immediately, while others take effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

Driver distractions caused by texting or just talking on cellphones have become what U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and a former Illinois congressman call an epidemic. He adds that the problem is especially troubling among teens and young adults. The new laws are designed to protect those drivers, as well as others who may encounter them on the road.

One of the laws that takes effect immediately forbids the use of mobile phones within 500 feet of a scene involving emergency responders. That law also prohibits the use of a mobile phone to take pictures at those scenes. The law expands the meaning of electronic message to include photos.

Two other laws going into effect next year include one that prohibits the use of cellphones in all roadwork areas. This expands a law that formerly restricted the use to roadwork zones with speed-limit reductions. The other law forbids the use of hand-held cellphones by any commercial driver.

When these new laws are in place, drivers who ignore them and cause a car accident may be more likely to be sued for causing injuries or death. Allegations of negligence causing these injuries or death are sure to follow. As Illinois continues to crack down on distracted drivers, courts will continue to take notice of any such violations into account when determining whether negligence was a causal factor in an injury car accident.

Source: Shelbyville Daily Union, "New limits on cellphone use for Illinois drivers," July 26, 2012

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