The Evanston City Council’s Human Services Committee Tuesday voted unanimously in favor of banning driving while holding a cell phone.

The ordinance, proposed by Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, would bring Evanston’s rules in line with those already in place in Chicago.

The Evanston City Council’s Human Services Committee Tuesday voted unanimously in favor of banning driving while holding a cell phone.

The ordinance, proposed by Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, would bring Evanston’s rules in line with those already in place in Chicago.

Grover and several representatives of the Evanston Bicycle Club said the ban is needed to reduce accidents caused by distracted driving.

A new state law bans texting while driving. The city ordinance would ban that, as well as web browsing or listening to voice mail.

The city ordinance would permit drivers to talk on the phone while driving if they used a hands-free device.

Grover said she’d like to see that banned as well — based on studies suggesting that use of hands-free devices doesn’t actually reduce the risk of distracted driving.

It was not entirely clear from discussion at the council meeting why the ordinance wasn’t drafted to include such a ban.

The ordinance exempts work-related calls by government officials from the ban and would permit anyone to make a 911 call while driving. Using a cell phone in a parked car would not be banned.

The ordinance calls for a $50 fine, with an added $200 penalty if the violation occurs at the time of a traffic accident.

With a majority of the city’s nine aldermen voting at the committee meeting, it appears the measure is likely to be adopted when the full city council reviews it later this month.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation

4 Comments

  1. Goverment work related?
    Why would “work-related calls from government officials” be exempted from the ban? Do the aldermen and mayor and other “officials” possess some special skill that allows them to drive and talk on their phones while the rest of us are unsafe?

    This law will not stop people from using their phones while they drive, or anywhere else for that matter. The horse is out of the barn on that one.

    Per the bicycle people, if we’re going to over regulate everything else I think we should start licensing bike riders like drivers. As more and more people take to the streets on their two wheelers I notice, as a biker and a driver, most bicyclist have no idea about the rules of the road. I have seen scores of Evanstonians using the phone while riding a bike without a helmet, that seems pretty unsafe to me. Is there a law in the works for that one?

    Reply:
    If you ask, they’ll tell you the exemption is so firefighters and police can talk on the run. But it is more broadly written than that — to cover any employee at any level of government. Are aldermen employees? Good question.
    — Bill

  2. No hands-free devices? Are you kidding me?
    How is using a hands-free device any different from talking to a passenger in your car, singing along with the radio, or listening to a book on tape? That is ridiculous. I fear that the Aldermen are going to ban everything. People have the right to make stupid mistakes and suffer the natural consequences.


    Reply:
    If the consequence of your stupid mistake is that I get run over by your car … not sure you have the right to be stupid then.
    There’s a hot debate about whether hands-free devices are any safer than hand-held cell phones. See this item from Consumer Reports.
    — Bill

  3. banning all in-car communication?
    No way a ban on hands-free devices would ever stand up to a court challenge. Government does not have the right to impinge on a citizens right to communicate freely, no matter the venue. I’m guessing this falls under free speech protection, maybe not.

    Banning any use of communication while driving is a step this new group of aldermen should consider very carefully.

    BTW, how can we pass a ordinance against distracted aldermen? I’d like to see their attention devoted to driving our city into a bright and prosperous future.

  4. This Is Welcome News!
    I rejoiced when I read this! If I jot down the incidences I’ve seen drivers driving too slow, too close to the curb, stopping a hair’s breath away from a pedestrian (even with small child) on a crosswalk, failing to use turn signals, and other stupid maneuvers while talking on their cellphone I’ll produce a book as thick as The Art Of French Cooking. Looking forward to the ban on the hands-free device as well.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published.