Illinois Distracted Driving Laws (Everything You Should Know)

Illinois Distracted Driving Laws (Everything You Should Know)

Are you allowed to send that text message when driving in Illinois? 

Is it illegal to eat that cheeseburger while behind the wheel?

Can you make that phone call to the emergency hotlines while driving?

We’re going to answer all these questions and more. 

Here, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about the Illinois distracted driving laws. 

We’ll look at:

  • Distracted driving laws in Illinois
  • Distracted driving exemptions in Ilinois
  • Distracted driving penalties in Illinois

On top of that, we’ll also answer some of the most frequently asked questions about distracted driving in the state. 

So let’s dive right in!

Distracted Driving Laws in Illinois

Illinois Distracted Driving Laws

Distracted driving generally means any behavior that prevents you from keeping your two hands on the steering wheel and your eyes on the road. 

Now, Illinois is one of the states that have strict distracted driving laws. 

These laws state that: 

  • You are NOT allowed to read, watch, or communicate using any handheld electronic device. This includes sending text messages and taking photos. 
  • Those under 19 years old can NOT use handheld devices even if they use hands-free software or accessories.
  • School bus drivers are NOT allowed to use handheld devices even in hands-free operations. 
  • You are NOT allowed to use your phone even at a stoplight. 
  • You are NOT allowed to wear headsets while driving unless you use a hearing aid. If you must wear an earphone or earpiece, it’s allowed for one ear only. 
  • Motorcycle or moped drivers are allowed to use intercom helmets. 

As you can see, the distracted driving laws in Illinois only focus on handheld devices and headsets. 

So if you’re asking if eating a cheeseburger is considered distracted driving, then, based on the description above, yes, it is. 

But if you’re asking if it is against the law, then no, it isn’t as Illinois doesn’t state any of that in its distracted driving law. 

That said, it’s still best to avoid all forms of distractions while driving to be safe. 

Distracted Driving Exemptions in Illinois

Now, there are a few people that are exempted from the Illinois distracted driving law. These are: 

  • Emergency personnel and police officers
  • First responders, including volunteer first responders
  • Drivers of commercial vehicles who have messages displayed on a screen that is not more than 10×10 inches

If you are not part of these groups of people, you can use a handheld device if, and only if:

  • You are reporting an emergency (for 18-year-olds the car should always be parked)
  • You’re stuck in traffic and your car is in park or neutral
  • You are parked at the side of the road

Distracted Driving Penalties in Illinois

Since Illinois is very strict with its distracted driving laws, you will face penalties if caught breaking them. 

Here are the distracted driving penalties in Illinois: 

  • First offense: $75 
  • Second offense: $100 
  • Third offense: $125 
  • Fourth and subsequent offenses: $150 

Apart from the fine penalties, you will be given a moving violation. If you receive 3 moving violations in a year, your driver’s license will be suspended. 

Of course, if you cause injuries or death due to distracted driving, you will face harsher penalties. 

  • Injury due to distracted driving: $1,000 and a Class A misdemeanor 
  • Death due to distracted driving: $25,000 and up to 3 years of jail time

Frequently Asked Questions

The Illinois distracted driving laws are simple, but there may be some gray areas that you want to be clear about. To help you, let’s answer some of the common questions about these laws. 

Is distracted driving a primary law in Illinois?

Yes, distracted driving is a primary law in Illinois.

Primary laws mean that you can be stopped by a police enforcer when they see you violating these laws. You don’t need to get into an accident to be ticketed. 

Is it illegal to eat and drive in Illinois?

As we already said, no, it’s not illegal to eat and drive in Illinois. Illinois distracted driving laws only focus on the use of handheld electronic devices and headsets. 

However, just because you can eat or drink (and we don’t mean alcohol) while driving, doesn’t mean that you should do so. It’s highly recommended that you eat when your car is parked.

What are the 3 categories of distractions while driving?

There are 3 categories of driving distractions, namely:

  • Visual – actions that prevent you from looking only at the road. This includes reading a text message, watching a video, or looking at a map. 
  • Manual – actions that take one or both of your hands off the steering wheel. This includes putting on makeup, getting something from your bag, and holding a coffee cup. 
  • Cognitive – actions that distract your mind from focusing on the road. This usually happens when you’re daydreaming or controlling rousey children. 

You can see why Illinois puts so much focus on using your phone while driving. I mean, using a phone violates all 3 distraction categories. 

What are examples of distracted driving?

Here are some other examples of distracted driving that you should avoid: 

  • Arguing with someone in the car or over the phone
  • Reading a map
  • Getting something from your bag
  • Pacifying your children
  • Thinking about other things other than driving

As long as an action prevents you from putting your full attention on your driving and on the road, it is considered distracted driving. 

Can you use a GPS while driving? 

Yes, you can use a GPS if the device is mounted on your dashboard. You are NOT allowed to operate the device when you are driving, though. 


And that was everything you need to know about the Illinois distracted driving laws. 

Distracted driving leads to a lot of road accidents. 

This is why it’s so important to obey the distracted driving laws. Not only that, but it’s best to avoid the other forms of distracted driving, too, though it isn’t illegal. 

Just remember that giving your full attention on the road prevents injuries and saves lives. It also prevents you from facing the penalties. 

Drive safely! 

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