Penalty for texting while driving about to increase


ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Drivers are facing another change behind the wheel starting next month.

On top of gas taxes going up, a law goes into effect prohibiting drivers from using cellphones while driving. It’s another move to get people to stop texting on the road.

Texting while driving has been illegal since 2014, but July 1, the penalties for breaking the law will be stiffer and could lead you to losing your license.

It’s been five years since Illinois banned using handheld devices while driving, but Sangamon County Sheriff Jack Campbell says distracted driving is still a problem.

“It’s the number one problem we are having, especially with young drivers. But, drivers altogether have become more and more accustomed to using that cellphone and we see that correlate with texting and driving.”

A law passed under the Rauner Administration takes effect next month turning texting and driving to a moving violation.

Right now, violators are slapped with fees. Deputies in the field say the harsher penalties won’t change much for them but will be tougher on violators.

“Before it was just considered an equipment violation. You pay your fine and you are done with it. Now, with it being a moving violation, there are heavier penalties.”

The moving violation will be imposed on everyone, including first time offenders. If you get caught three times, you face a license suspension.

“When you think about the long-term ramifications of the simple act of using that cellphone, hopefully it will remind drivers that it’s just not worth it.”

Holding onto your cellphone while driving is also against the law. Deputies say there is an easy way to make sure you don’t break it.

“The best thing to do is to get a dash mount or window mount device and you can put your phone on there.”

It’s also important to remember texting and driving is not legal at stop signs or traffic lights. Another foolproof way to stay out of trouble is to pull over to a safe spot if you have to use your phone.

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