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Question of the Month ~ May 2014


Q. How many states have banned the use of handheld cellphones while driving?

As of mid-April, 12 U.S. states had general statutory bans on drivers’ use of handheld cellphones, including Illinois in the Midwest, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. In each of these 12 states, this traffic violation is a primary offense: Law enforcement can stop a driver because of the cellphone use and issue a citation.
Other states have targeted bans in place. For example, every state in the Midwest prohibits cellphone use by young and novice drivers, while Michigan and Minnesota place restrictions on school-bus drivers. Some states outside the region also prohibit the use of cellphones in construction or school zones.
Illinois’ general statutory ban took effect this year, after the General Assembly passed HB 1247 in 2013.
Under the new law, violators are fined $75 for a first offense and must pay as much as $150 for repeat offenses as well as face a moving violation on their driving record. Three moving violations within a year can lead to the suspension of a driver’s license.
In addition, distracted drivers who harm others in Illinois face a Class A misdemeanor, which can result in fines of up to $2,500 and jail time of up to a year. Drivers involved in fatal accidents can be charged with a Class 4 felony, which carries fines of up to $25,000 and up to three years of jail time.
Illinois’ law is similar to the cellphone bans in place in other U.S. states. Although fine amounts often vary from state to state, they always increase for multiple violations. Most of these 12 states have decided, too, that repeat cellphone-ban offenses should result in a moving violation that goes on the driver’s record.
Though most U.S. states still allow for cellphone use by drivers, nearly all of them (43) ban texting while driving. That includes all 11 states in the Midwest, the Governors Highway Safety Association reports. South Dakota legislators approved the texting-while-driving ban this year with passage of HB 1177; it takes effect July 1. This traffic violation will be a secondary offense in South Dakota, as it is in Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio (as of April).
Texting while driving is a primary offense in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.


Article written by Tim Anderson, a CSG Midwest senior policy analyst. Question of the Month highlights an inquiry received by CSG Midwest through its Information Help Line, a research service for lawmakers, legislative staff and other state officials.