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Ill Lawmakers Debate New Cell Phone Restrictions

Justin Kabbes, Illinois Capitol Bureau
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (IRN) -  This year Illinois lawmakers have been cracking down on drivers who use phones behind the wheel.

Texting and driving is already banned, but a number of proposals have been introduced by lawmakers to take it further. Whether drivers are talking on a phone behind the wheel — or even texting on a bicycle — lawmakers have been considering crackdowns on nearly all forms of transportation.

The proposed bans also vary about where drivers can’t talk on their phones. One proposal would ban use in a construction zone another near stopped emergency vehicles, while another bill would ban phone use completely unless it’s attached to a hands-free device.

State Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Sparta), a former policeman, says he remembers when a state trooper was hit.

“She was struck, broke both her legs, her pelvis, she had a head contusion and the driver who struck her admitted she was on a cell phone and didn’t even see the officer or the squad car or the stop,” Costello says.

Costello introduced the proposal to ban phone use when driving by stopped emergency vehicles, but voted against a total ban. He says it’s not as relevant in rural areas.

Sheldon Jacobson, a University of Illinois computer science professor who studied the effects of similar laws in New York, agrees with Costello.

“We found the higher the licensed driver density, the more of an impact the law seemed to have in reducing the different types of accidents,” Jacobson says.

Jacobson says while the ban works in some areas, it is difficult to enforce. When drivers are being pulled over, he says, they’re likely to shut off their phones, making it difficult for cops to prove if they were using it at the time of the stop.

Copyright Illinois Radio Network

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