January 11th, 2013
Illinois recently passed three pieces of legislation in an effort to reduce vehicle fatalities involving truckers. Backed by the Illinois Department of Transportation, these changes in legislature are aimed at making the road a safer place by discouraging and minimalizing cell phone use while operating a vehicle, and opting to vacate traffic lanes right after vehicle crashes.
These laws, which took effect on January 1st, 2013 include House Bill 5101, which prohibits any use of a hand-held device while operating a commercial vehicle, including, but not limited to texting and phone calls. Prior to the passing of this law, Illinois banned texting while driving, but phone calls were still allowed. The statutes were amended to fit the Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, which completely forbids cell phone use, including texting by any person driving a commercial motor vehicle.
Another mandate that passed is Senate Bill 2488 which bans the usage of cell phones in any construction, maintenance, or road work speed zone. It is, however, still permissible for drivers to use their devices in hands-free or voice-activated modes, so Bluetooth and other headsets, voice commands, and speakerphone is adheres to this regulation. Cell phone use through voice commands was legal prior to this change.
The speed limit in such areas has no effect on this law. Before the law passed, work zone speed limits had to be lower than the area’s original speed limit in order to be recognized as a work zone by the statute. If the speed limit was equivalent, the ticket was inapplicable.
As mentioned earlier, new laws regarding the clearance of accident lanes are in effect. Senate Bill 3409 permits vehicle operators to move their vehicle to the side of the road or to the closest safe location, to prevent endangering the life of the driver and those around him or her. Safe locations are outlined but not limited to exit ramps, road medians and shoulders, cross-streets on busy roads, parking lots, and any location that will not endanger or obstruct traffic. This law still requires the driver of the vehicle to remain close to the accident location and await police assistance.
The statute that Senate Bill 3409 replaces states that “Every such stop shall be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary.” The new bill makes sure it is clear to drivers that relocating to a safe location isn’t a violation of this law. The Illinois traffic department realizes that the most critical decisions involving a crash are made immediately after it happens.
Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider recognized the heightened levels of danger in such zones and spoke out about it, saying that Senate Bill 3409 “will reduce the chances of further injury and secondary crashes by allowing able vehicles to clear the roadway following a crash.” She also recognized the danger of work zones and the high amount of fatalities that result, and said: “People are tragically injured and killed in work zones and by commercial motor vehicles due to distracted driving. Cell phone distractions have been proven to be as dangerous as drinking and driving.” Schenider hopes the new laws will put a cap on the number of accidents that happen in work zones through the more specific distracted driving laws and save lives.