Starting next year drivers statewide will have to comply with limits on cell phone use that have been in effect in Evanston since 2010.

Gov. Pat Quinn Friday signed a bill that will prohibit all use of hand-held mobile phones while driving. Another measure he approved increases penalties where any use of an electronic device while driving is the cause of an accident.

House Bill 1247, sponsored by Rep. John D’Amico (D-Chicago) and Sen. John Mulroe (D-Chicago), makes exceptions for hands-free devices, including those with headsets that can initiate a call using a single button or a voice command.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, who sponsored the Evanston ordinance, and the Evanston Police Department provided data about Evanston’s experience with the ban that was used in floor debate on the legislation.

The city’s data, issued last spring, showed a reduction in accidents and injuries on local roads after the ban on hand-held cell phone use went into effect.

Evanston was the third muncipality in the state to adopt such regulations, and a sizable number of others now have such local bans, including Chicago, Winnetka, Highland Park, Lake Forest, Deerfield, Waukegan and Glencoe.

But the inconsistency of regulations across the state led some drivers to complain that they didn’t know what rules applied as the traveled from one town to another.

Last year Grover sought to expand the cell phone ban to also bar the use of hands-free devices, but that measure — which would have conflicted with the new state rules — didn’t make it into the city code.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. What about bikers and pedestrians?

    They should have included using cell phone while biking and walking

    1. Ah, that would be

      Ah, that would be something… Using the cell phone while biking is ridculosly irresponisble. And pedestrians seem to be drunk when focused on their cell phones. However, there is a critical difference between a distracted pedestrian and a distracted driver: the driver is in a vehicle that weights some 3,000 lbs and can easily kill or severly injure others. Cyclists or pedestrians are a danger mostly to themselves. Drivers *must* pay attention when they drive.

      In addition to being a danger to others, drivers playing with their smart phone R intersections also slow down traffic.

      1. Walk and talk

        And when pedestians get hit by trains because the were too busy  talking on a cell phone, the train should have stopped, right?

  2. Stats can be misleading.

    I'm not a big fan of banning cell phone use while driving, primarily because national stats seem to indicate it does not really improve safety, and that talking on a handsfree device or to someone else in the car is just as distracting.

    I am skeptical of Evanston's stats.  I believe crashes and injuries have gone down nationally, which some experts attribute to less teens driving (believe or not teens nowadays are less interested in driving than before) and the economy (people can't afford cars, drive less due to high gas prices, etc.).  Evanston's stats are casual at best.

    That said, I think a statewide approach is significantly better than a patchwork approach, where every municipality has their own rules.

    1. Sounds like good research

      Well your comments certainly sound well researched. Just looking out your window, drinking a cup of coffee and making a judgement call off the top of your head. If you are going to debate the facts come up with something other than just what you believe.

  3. There is a difference

    Until next year, driving and talking your cell phone will cost you $100 but no moving violation. Next year, will Evanston comply with the state law for fine and the moving violation?  I do not know the answer.

  4. Are elected officials exempt from the cell phone ban?

    When the Evanston Council adopted the cell phone ban a few years back, it wrote in an exemption for city workers and elected officials who were allowed to drive while yakking on the cell phone as long as the conversation was about city business.

    To the best of my knowledge, no one on the Council reversed that exemption. So I wonder, does the Evanston cell phone exemption for elected officials and city workers still apply? Anyone?

    1. Not exempt from the state ban

      The city ordinance still exempts: "Any person using a mobile telephone or onboard communications device for nonpersonal use in the course of ordinary business in their employment with a City, state or federal agency or authority."

      But the similar provision in state law exempts only: "a law enforcement officer or operator of an emergency vehicle while performing his or her official duties."

      However, the state law also contains exemptions for CB and ham radio operators and a bunch of other uses not mentioned in the city ordinance.

      To date nobody has sent us a picture of an Evanston alderman talking on a cellphone while driving.

      — Bill

  5. But bikers, pedestrians do cause related accidents

    If cars have to swerve or lose control to avoid bikers/pedestrians too busy on their cell phones or just not paying attention, the car may hit another car or even someone [who is paying attention] on the sidewalk or even run into a building.

    While the driver may not in anyway be at fault, he may be charged or at a minimum have to live with the fact that he hurt or even killed somene.

    Why can't the police double team—one in unmarked car radio'ing one in another car when they see a driver on the phone.  While those who phone/text while driving are obviously 'dumb' in at least in the commonsense term, they probably will still put down their phone when they see a police car—then pick it up again when past.

    Then the bikers and pedestrians to pay no attention to where they are and doing, can be addressed.

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