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Lay your phones down!

PRINCETON — In another four months, it will be illegal for Illinois drivers to use handheld cell phones while driving.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the new law on Aug. 16 amending the Illinois Vehicle Code and making Illinois the 12th state to ban the use of handheld cell phone devices while driving. The new law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

The new law, House Bill 1247, does allow for drivers to use hands-free phone devices, like speakerphones and headsets. The law also allows for exceptions to use two-way mobile radios and for using a cell phone during an emergency.

On Monday, Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson said he is rather reluctant to say he supports the new law because it seems like the state of Illinois is looking for more ways to control people. What will the state want to control next, he asked.

“But I understand what the legislators are trying to do, to make it a safer environment for everyone,” Thompson said. “But this time I think Illinois is over-legislating it, trying to control too many things. There are so many variables to consider.”

Though he may not be in full support of the new law in general terms, he does completely support the ban on cell phone use in school zones and work zones.

And though he may not be in full support of the new law, he and his department will enforce the new law, Thompson said.

As a side note, Thompson said the most recent studies suggest even hands-free devices can create as much of a distraction as hand-held cell phones.

On Monday, Princeton Police Chief Tom Root said the intent of the new law is make highways and streets safer, and anything that can accomplish that is a good thing.

However, the new law may be a hard one to enforce because of all the people who have cell phones, Root said. Also, there may be emergency situations which would justify the use of a handheld cell phone, he said.

In his opinion, legislators may be getting too far out on what people can and can’t do, Root said.

When the new law goes into effect on Jan. 1, drivers caught using their handheld cell phones will face up to a $75 fine.

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