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Texting while driving in Illinois penalties to increase

There will soon be tougher penalties for those of you who text and drive in Illinois.

In just a couple of weeks, a new law will be in place, in an effort to keep drivers off their cell phones.

Macomb Police Chief Curt Barker said distracted driving is a huge issue on the streets, cell phones being the main problem.

He said officers write as many as 10 to 15 ordinance violations a day just for texting and driving– something he hopes the new law will change.

“I text and drive unfortunately, sometimes,” Driver Alexei Douglas said.

Whether it’s looking at a GPS, changing a song or sending that quick text message, having your phone in your hand while behind the wheel is illegal in Illinois.

“Even if I look down for a second and I look back up, I’ll be swerving off the road,” Douglas said.

Those actions behind the wheel are exactly what local law enforcement is hoping the new texting and driving law in Illinois changes.

“We’ve all been out there driving down the road and we’ve observed cars all over the road and we think they’re intoxicated or something and we get up there, and they’re just messing around on their phone,” Barker said.

The new law, starting July first, turns using a cell phone while behind the wheel into a moving violation, meaning points on your license and possible suspension.

Barker said it will allow them to give harsher consequences.

“In the state of Illinois, if you’re over the age of 21, and you get three citations in a year, you lose your license for a year,” Barker said. “If you’re under 21, you get two citations in a 12-month period and your license is suspended also.”

Barker said although hard to enforce sometimes, he hopes it makes the roads safer.

“I think over time, I think it’s going to reduce the number of individuals using their cell phones,” Barker said.

While drivers agree, they also have their doubts.

“It could save lives,” Douglas said. “I mean, a lot of people will stop, but it’s not going to stop everybody. But it will save lives because it’s becoming a huge problem.”

Right now, texting and driving is a city ordinance violation in Macomb. They will soon have the choice to give drivers that ordinance violation, or the new state citation.

In Missouri, the law prohibits drivers under the age of 21 to use cell phones while driving, which results in a 200 dollar fine and two points against their drivers license.

In Iowa, the law prohibits anyone to use a phone while driving. Those citations start at a 100 dollar fine.

Kara Biernat

Kara Biernat is a MultiMedia Journalist for WGEM News.

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