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Distracted driving draws attention from state

Illinois has outlawed the use of personal electronic devices while driving. But, existing penalties were apparently insufficient to combat the risk of auto accidents from drivers engaged in texting and driving. New laws were recently approved increasing the penalties for this form of distracted driving.

Illinois outlawed texting while driving in 2010. It also sanctioned using a personal electronic device, or "PED," while driving, with a warning for the first offense and issuing tickets for a non-moving violation for later offenses. On July 1, however, the use or mere holding of a PED while driving is sanctioned as a moving violation. Drivers will have their licenses suspended for three offenses.

Other legislation was recently signed into law and will take effect in July of 2020. It will increase the penalties for texting while driving if it caused great bodily harm, disfigurement or permanent disability. The Illinois Secretary of State will be authorized to revoke or suspend violators' driving privileges for one year and impose a $1,000 minimum fine.

Once it takes effect, this law will cover a motorist who is using a cellphone, laptop, tablet and other held-held device while driving. Drivers reporting an emergency to first-responders or using an electronic device on hands-free or voice-operated modes are exempt. Drivers will be allowed to use these devices while they are parked on the shoulder or idling in traffic while their car is in neutral or park.

Victims of distracted driving may suffer serious injuries regardless of whether the distraction involves an electronic device or more mundane activity, such as eating, talking to passengers or personal grooming.

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