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New Law May Prohibit Using Your Phone Near Illinois Car Accidents

Perhaps you have seen drivers using their phones as traffic inches by an accident scene. Drivers may be using their cellphones to call home and let their family know they will be late for dinner, or may be texting to let others know to avoid the area of the wreck. Unless drivers are calling to report an Illinois car accident to emergency personnel, however, using a cellphone near the scene of a crash may soon be banned.

In legislation that passed the Illinois House earlier this month, drivers would be barred from using their phones in a 500 foot radius of any emergency scene where warning lights are flashing. An exception allows drivers to call to report an emergency. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Smithtown).

The goal of the proposal is to reduce the chance that carless drivers will hit emergency responders or accident victims. Similar cellphone bans already exist for school and construction zones.

The proposed legislation also seems to prohibit receiving or sending pictures or video while driving anywhere (not just near emergencies). The bill's sponsor, however, explained that the primary purpose behind the bill was to restrict cellphone use by drivers around emergency scenes.

The bill will now be debated in the Illinois Senate. A complete ban on driver cellphone use without hand-free devices has also recently passed the House. While these bills are being debated, Illinois drivers can still make a personal decision to avoid distracted driving. When reaching for their phone to make a quick call while behind the wheel, drivers should think about the serious risk they are taking in the hopes of saving a few minutes.

Source: Pantagraph.com, House measure further restricts cellphone use for drivers, Shannon McFarland, 9 March 2012

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