Hands-free driving law extends statewide

Elise Houcek, Editor-in-Chief

Note: A picture that was included with this story when it was originally posted has been removed.

As of January 1, 2014, the Chicago law requiring all cell phone usage to be hands-free has extended its parameters statewide. Effectively, a cell phone must be free from the driver’s hands at all times while operating their vehicle, and any phone calls made or received while driving must be conducted either on speaker, through a Bluetooth or some other hands-free device.

According to ABC 7 Eyewitness news, state police will begin enforcing the new law immediately and without a grace period, subjecting all LHS students, parents, and faculty to enforcement under violation.  The first offense is a $75 ticket, which increases by $25 increments with each repeated offense. Eventually, after three offenses in a single year, the driver’s license may be suspended.

Uninformed teens pose a significant risk to the law and public safety, as young people between the ages of 16 and 19 are more likely to be involved in car crashes than any other age group nationwide, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

For LHS senior John Schuler, the existence of the law came as a surprise:

“I was definitely not aware of the hands-free law. I can understand what the purpose of the law is, but it makes me upset that it wasn’t publicized enough; if I were unaware of the law and got pulled over, I would be furious.”

Still, other LHS drivers think the law will inevitably help reduce the number of distracted driving related accidents, but are unsure just how many people will be able to comply with the new no cell phone standards.

“I think it will help lower accidents, but in today’s society here, everything is based on technology and our cellphones. The law will easily be broken and ignored,” senior Sharon Li said.

Libertyville school resource officer Mr. Bob Uliks reiterated the gravity of cell-phone related distracted driving as comparable to driving under the influence: “When you drive intoxicated, your motor skills and reaction time are diminished significantly. I would say that that physical impairment is the same when you aren’t paying attention to the road due to the use of a cellular device. I think people have just grown so accustomed to being on their phone all the time that they don’t even realize they’re doing it. We’ve had students and parents using their cell phones while they’re driving on the campus, which violates the law and is a ticket-able offense.”

Few exceptions to the hands-free standard will be made. According to the provision, a driver can legally make or receive a call when stopped at a red light only if the car is parked or in neutral. Furthermore, under exigent circumstances, where the driver can present a clear emergency need, an in-hands call will be permitted without legal ramification.