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New ‘Hands Free’ Cell Phone Law Not Sinking In With Some Drivers

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(CBS) – When police say motorists in Illinois must drop their cell phones and drive, they mean it. But not everyone is getting the message.

Police tell WBBM they are seeing a number of motorists with misconceptions about the state’s new so-called “hands-free” statute.

Some motorists believe it’s all right to hold the phone while on speaker, to check their cell phone’s GPS or to dial, and then put the phone down. It’s not.

Some motorists are being stopped for wearing headphones that cover both ears. Only one ear bud or headphone is allowed, under a long-standing state law.

Mount Prospect Police Officer Greg Sill said motorists also are mistaken if they believe they have to be doing something else wrong to be stopped for illegal cell phone use.

“We can absolutely stop someone if an officer sees someone who has their cell phone up to their ear,” Sill says. “We can absolutely stop them based on that.”

Enforcement of the law, which took effect Jan. 1, also varies. As of Friday, Crystal Lake police had written 133 citations and 188 warnings. Police in Lisle said Thursday they had issued 94 tickets and 116 warnings.

Huntley police, on the other hand, have written only 16 tickets, and Mount Prospect police have written 39 citations.

In Aurora, where police had issued 52 citations and 112 warnings as of Thursday, a spokesman said some were texting and some were speaking on phones.

In Riverside, where police have issued 24 citations, police complained that in several cases, distracted motorists drove past officers in fully marked squad cars.

Sill said Mount Prospect is giving its officers the choice of writing a municipal citation, which carries a $20 fine, or a citation for violating the state law.

The maximum fines under the new state law are higher: $75 for the first offense, $100 for the second, $125 for the third and $150 for the fourth or subsequent violations.

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