Driving Laws Changing in Illinois in 2014
Anyone driving in Illinois after January 1, 2014 must be prepared for some significant changes.
The state's new hands free cell phone law has been called a "cell phone ban," but that is not quite right.
The law prohibits holding a phone while having a conversation while driving, but it still allows people to talk as long as they use a headset or a speaker-phone built into their car.
Illinois State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond says the law is about reducing the threat of distracted driving.
She compares it to campaigns to increase the use of seat belts a generation ago.
"No one wanted to wear their seat belts, and now we have more than 80 percent compliance," says Bond. "So it's just a matter of training and reemphasizing the message that distracted driving can turn fatal."
The fines for holding a cell phone while driving start at $75 and go up for additional violations.
The law does not apply to two-way radios, GPS units, or portable music players like the iPod.
Meanwhile, the maximum speed limit in Illinois will increase to 70 MPH on January 1, 2014 miles an hour.
Drivers might want to hold off on the throttle, though as it is going to take the Illinois Department of Transportation a little while to get all the new speed limit signs put up.
IDOT spokeswoman Paris Earvin says, until then, "(IDOT) really encourages motorists to obey the posted speed limits."
She says IDOT will be posting about 900 new signs between Jan. 2 and Jan. 17, but not earlier.
"I've had folks ask me, 'Why not before Jan. 1?' And we cannot legally post 70mph speed-limit signs until the law is effective," says Earvin.
One open question in the law relates to counties around Chicago and St. Louis.
They can opt out of the higher speed limit, but IDOT has yet to say whether any of them are doing so.
The Illinois Secretary of State's office will be offering nearly a dozen new specialty license plates in 2014.
The state already has more than 100 such plates. They cost more than a standard plate, with a portion of the extra money usually going towards an affective cause.
Before the new plates are sold, Secretary of State spokesman Henry Haupt says groups must prove they have at least 1,500 willing buyers.
"The threshold must be met in order for the plate to be produced.”
Haupt says legislators have approved specialty plates that never met that threshold so they never got made, though he couldn't say how often that's occurred.
Critics say the proliferation of specialty plates make it hard for police to identify vehicles.
NEW IN 2014 LICENSE PLATES:
Illinois Police Association
Prince Hall Masons
H Foundation (Cure for Cancer)
Retired Law Enforcement