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Texting While Driving – Not in Illinois

Chester A. Lizak

As of January 1, 2010, Illinois means business when it comes to NO TEXTING WHILE DRIVING. Illinois is just one of the many states that is placing a ban on emailing, text messaging, instant messaging or the use of your cell phone in school zones while driving. Illinois is not alone in their efforts to crack down on texting while driving. More than one-third of states have some form of a texting ban law in place.

Studies conducted by major universities have found that the risk or driving while using a phone, PDA, or walkie-talkie is as hazardous as driving with a 0.08 blood alcohol level, the legal limit of intoxication in Illinois.

It’s not just your cell phones, but also PDA’s, and any form of computer which is capable of composing, reading, or sending an electronic message. An electronic message is defined as a self‑contained piece of digital communication that is designed or intended to be transmitted between physical devices. As stated above, this includes but is not limited to electronic mail, a text message, an instant message, or a command or request to access an internet site. So you can’t be surfing your Facebook page or searching DEX for that address you are looking for while you are driving.

The new law prohibits the full use of your cell phone or other electronic device while you are driving in school zones or in a construction zone. There are exceptions to these new laws, however, they are mostly limited to law enforcement and rescue personnel while operating in their official capacity. You may use your cell phone to report an emergency to emergency personnel during an emergency situation. Also a driver may use a cell phone with hands‑free or voice‑activated mode, except in school and construction zones. One other exception is when the vehicle is stopped due to normal traffic being obstructed and the driver has the motor vehicle transmission in neutral or park. Further, the law does not include a GPS or Navigation Systems or a device that is physically or electronically integrated into the motor vehicle.

So if you are like me you may have thoughts such as; “How can this law be possibly enforced” or “Everyone does it, all you have to do is not get caught.” Or possibly the worst thought, “I am a much better driver than all those who get in accidents while using their phone.” Reality is that none of us are capable of using our cell phone safely while driving and it is a very dangerous practice. In recent years, heightened litigation naming cell phone use as the cause of accidents has cost violators and their insurance companies millions of dollars. These days you can bet that your cell phone records will be subpoenaed to determine whether you were texting, talking or surfing the internet while driving.

Examples of litigation include:

  • Berry Electric of Arlington Heights was sued for $4 million dollars after one of it’s employees ran a stop light and struck a 70 year old woman. The employee was lost and was navigating his Blackberry in an effort to get directions.
  • Cooley-Godward, a Virginia law firm, suffered a $30 million dollar wrongful death suit after one of their lawyers killed a 15-year old boy while conducting business on her cell phone.

So what can you do to help protect yourself or your company? The first thing you may want to consider is purchasing higher limits on your insurance policies. For companies, we recommend a written vehicle use policy restricting cell phone usage. At DiMonte and Lizak we can help you draft the proper document. Another option is to enforce a vehicle use policy prohibiting cell phone usage while driving, and providing training on proper cell phone usage.

Will your company be able to survive if you or one of your employees are in an accident as a result of using a cell phone while driving? Illinois has become serious about this very real and dangerous exposure. All of us at DiMonte and Lizak are serious about following our own cell phone usage policy. We can help you and your company implement these new laws. If you would like to discuss these new laws further, please give us a call.

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Di Monte & Lizak, LLC,

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Park Ridge, IL 60068