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Drivers beware of new laws

With the start of the new year, Gov. Pat Quinn has signed into law new legislation which further restricts the use of cell phones while driving and also creates greater fines for excessive speeding.

As of Jan. 1, drivers on Illinois roadways need to know it will be illegal to use cell phones in all roadwork zones. Currently, the law restricted cell phone use only in work zones with speed limits reductions. Also as of Jan. 1, drivers may not use a cell phone while driving within 500 feet of an emergency scene. As of Jan. 1, commercial drivers will no longer be allowed to use hand-held cell phones.

On Monday, Princeton Police Chief Tom Root said he absolutely supports the new laws which place tighter restrictions on the use of cell phones while driving.

“Anything we can do to further prevent driving accidents created by texting and cell phone use is a good thing,” Root said. “Also, the raised bar for commercial drivers (to no longer be allowed to use hand-hand cell phones) is fantastic.”

Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson agreed, though he has not yet had the opportunity to study the new laws in depth. However, he does know there can be a problem out there with distracted drivers. The goal of the new laws appears to be to eliminate distractions and to get drivers to pay more close attention to their driving, which is obviously a good thing, the sheriff said.

In addition to the new cell phone restriction laws, the governor has also signed legislation called Julie’s Law, which deals with stiffer penalties for serious speed-limit violations. Julie’s Law was named after Julie Gorczysnski, a Chicago area resident who died in 2011 after she was hit by a car going 76 miles per hour in a 40-miles-per-hour zone. The driver of the speeding vehicle had previously been placed on court supervision seven times for excessive speeding.

Julie’s Law prohibits courts from granting supervision to any defendant charged with operating a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than 30 mph over the posted speed limit, or in excess of 25 mph in an urban district.

In announcing the new laws, Quinn said the goal is always safety on the highways.

“By working together, we can deter reckless driving behavior and create safer roads across our state,” Quinn said. “These new laws will protect children and families, and prevent dangerous trends such as speeding and distracted driving.”

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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