Illinois’s Cellphone-Use & Texting-While-Driving Laws

Read about Illinois’s distracted driving laws and the costs of a violation.

Illinois has two statutes that cover distracted driving. The first statute bans talking on a cellphone entirely for underage drivers and in certain places for all drivers. The second statute bans all motorists from using an “electronic communication device” while driving. The statutes overlap to some extent and carry slightly different penalties.

This article discusses the specifics of what the laws prohibit and the costs and other consequences of a violation.

Cellphone Law

Illinois’s cellphone law prohibits motorists who are under 18 years old from using cellphones while driving. The only exception is for emergency situations.

The cellphone law also makes it illegal for all drivers—regardless of age—to use a cellphone while driving:

  • through a school speed zone
  • through a construction or maintenance speed zone, or
  • within 500 feet of an emergency scene.

The cellphone ban that applies to all drivers contains a number of exceptions. The law doesn’t apply to:

  • voice-operated and hands-free device use
  • persons working at the construction or maintenance site
  • calls made for emergency purposes, and
  • law enforcement and operators of emergency vehicles performing official duties.

Fines and Jail Time

The possible penalties for a cellphone ticket are:

  • First and second violations. A standard first or second cellphone ticket is a petty offense and carries a maximum fine of $1,000. However, the standard fine amount for motorists who opt to pay the ticket without going to court is $120.
  • Third violations. A third or subsequent cellphone violation is a class C misdemeanor, which carries a maximum fine of $1,500. Again, for motorists who pay their ticket without appearing in court, the fine is $120.
  • Aggravated cellphone violations. A violation that results in great bodily harm, permanent disability, disfigurement, or the death of another person is known as “aggravated use of a wireless telephone.” Aggravated violations that don’t involve a fatality are class A misdemeanors and carry up to a year in jail and a maximum $2,500 in fines. Aggravated violations involving deaths are class 4 felonies. Convicted motorists face three to six years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.

Traffic Violation Points

A cellphone violation will add ten to 30 demerit points to a motorist’s driving record.

Electronic-Communication-Device Law

Illinois second distracted driving law prohibits all drivers from using an electronic communication device while operating a vehicle. The definition of “electronic communication device” includes cellphones, tablets, and laptops. So, in effect, the law bans text messaging and talking on a phone for all drivers, in all locations.

The electronic-communication-device law contains a number of exceptions. The law doesn’t apply to:

  • voice-operated and hands-free device use
  • electronic device use for emergency purposes
  • law enforcement and operators of emergency vehicles performing official duties
  • commercial drivers reading messages displayed on permanently installed communication devices that don’t exceed a ten inch squared screen size
  • drivers who are stopped due to normal traffic being obstructed and have their vehicle in neutral or park, and
  • two-way radios.

Fines and Jail Time

The possible penalties for a violation of the electronic-communication-device law are:

  • Standard violations. The maximum fines for standard electronic-communication-device violations are $75 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense, $125 for a third offense, and $150 for a fourth or subsequent offense.
  • Aggravated violations. A violation that results in great bodily harm, permanent disability, disfigurement, or the death of another person is known as “aggravated use of an electronic communication device.” Aggravated violations that don’t involve a fatality are class A misdemeanors and carry up to a year in jail and a maximum $2,500 in fines. Aggravated violations involving deaths are class 4 felonies. Convicted motorists face three to six years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.

Traffic Violation Points

An electronic device violation will add 20 to 30 demerit points to a motorist’s driving record.

Other Possible Charges

Depending on the circumstances, a cellphone or electronic-device-use violation could also lead to a reckless driving conviction. And for aggravated violations involving deaths, reckless homicide charges are another possibility.
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