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Local

Quinn signs law banning hand-held cellphones for drivers

Quinn signs law forbidding motorists from using hand-held tech devices while driving

Drivers soon will have to hang up their cellphones and concentrate on the road after a Gov. Pat Quinn-backed bill was signed into law.

The law bans the use of handheld devices while driving. Motorists are expected to use hands-free devices, such as Bluetooth headsets, if they want to make a phone call.

The legislation has the support of law enforcement and safety advocates. Because talking and cruising is so commonplace, violators shouldn’t be hard to find.

“Clearly all you have to do is pull up to any intersection and you can spot two to three people on the phone,” said James Wales, director of police and public safety for Lake in the Hills.

Illinois joins 11 other states and Washington, D.C., in banning hand-held phones on the road. Texting while driving already is illegal.

McHenry County Undersheriff Andrew Zinke said distracted driving is a lot like drunken driving, in that in both cases motorists are erratic, swerving and often stopping quickly.

The U.S. Transportation Department says drivers using hand-held devices are four times more likely to get into crashes causing injuries. Distracted driving caused 387,000 injuries and 3,000 deaths in 2011.

Itasca-based National Safety Counsel encourages those who need to talk or text to pull off the road. Hands-free cellphones aren’t necessarily safer, the council says. Driving while talking on the phone in any way is a visual, mechanical and cognitive distraction.

“People are still going to be distracted by their conversations rather than paying attention to the road,” Zinke said, adding that he supports “anything to make our roads a little safer.”

The fee for a violation starts at $75 for the first offense and grows to $150 by the fourth.

The new law takes effect Jan. 1.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report

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