Illinois lawmakers OK bills to improve highway safety

| 6/17/2009

With an eye on highway safety, Illinois lawmakers approved a bill that would allow harsher penalties for uninsured drivers. A separate bill that is intended to make travel safer would prohibit texting while driving while another one limits cell phone use in construction zones.

The Senate voted 56-1 to advance to Gov. Pat Quinn a bill that would increase the penalty for uninsured drivers who cause wrecks. Under HB370, the penalty for driving without insurance and causing an accident resulting in injury or death could result in one year in prison and/or a $2,500 fine. Court supervisions would not be an option.

Illinois law now limits punishment to $500 fines. No additional penalties are doled out if the driver causes an accident.

A separate bill advancing from the statehouse to the governor’s desk addresses distracted driving, which is one of the bigger detriments to road safety. Targeting one of the contributing factors to that problem, House and Senate lawmakers approved a measure – HB71 – that would prohibit people from reading, typing or sending text messages.

Offenders would face fines of as much as $500. Exceptions would be made for GPS devices that are part of a cell phone. Of particular interest to truckers, the bill also makes exceptions for Qualcomm-type devices.

Attempts nationwide to curb the practice of using the devices while driving have picked up steam in the past couple of years. Advocates for the ban cite a Nationwide Mutual Insurance survey that found one in five drivers “texting” while driving. That number nearly doubles for drivers aged 18 to 27.

One more bill – HB72 – to advance to Quinn’s desk would forbid talking on a cell phone while driving through construction or school zones. Use of hands-free devices would still be permitted.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Illinois in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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