Illinois Hands-Free Law Effective July 1, 2019

A new law designed to address distracted driving caused by the use of cell phones and other electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle goes into effect on July 1, 2019. 

The law toughens an existing hands-free law that was enacted in 2010 and makes the use of hand-held cellphones,  texting, or other electronic devices such as PDAs or voice recorders while driving a moving violation and comes with an increased fine. 

Under the old law, a first violation resulted in a warning being issued and subsequent violations were non-moving violations. The new law makes every violation a moving violation, which will appear on your driving record, may increase your auto insurance cost, and could lead to the suspension of your driver;s license after three moving violations.

The new law prohibits the use of or even holding an electronic device that isn’t hands-free while driving.  You may not use the device at stop signs, stoplights, or when stopped in traffic. You may use such devices when reporting an emergency,  when parked on the shoulder of the road, or if traffic is stopped by an obstruction and the vehicle is in neutral or park.

There is an exception that allows the use of an amateur radio by the driver. However, this does not relieve you from operating your motor vehicle in a safe and responsible manner. 

There is bound to be some initial confusion on the part of law enforcement when the new law goes into effect. If you intend to operate your amateur radio while driving, it is recommended to place a copy of the new law and a copy of your amateur radio license in the vehicle.  Be polite and courteous as this is new territory for everyone. 

Note that if you are using a cell phone while driving and are pulled over, you are not excused by the amateur radio exception. Claiming that you were only using Echolink could difficult to explain and  prove and will most likely will result in a citation.

Remember that you may still be (incorrectly) cited despite having shown the officer the text of the law and your amateur radio license. In that case, you will need to “tell it to the judge”.

The full text of the law is below with the exception for amateur radio use highlighted. You may download and print the document from the viewer.

Illinois General Assembly - Full Text of Public Act 100-0858 - 07-01-19