New motor vehicle laws take effect in January

Online Staff Report

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Beginning Jan. 1, 2012, Illinois State Police (ISP) will begin enforcing new motor vehicle laws that passed in 2011, as the push to decrease traffic fatalities remains a top priority for law enforcement officials across Illinois.

The ISP’s “Fatal Four” most common traffic violations — speeding, driving under the influence (DUI), seat belts and distracted driving — remain a top priority for ISP troopers to enforce, and will be further enhanced with new laws that take effect Jan. 1, 2012.

Traffic fatalities are under 1,000 for the third straight year, but one traffic fatality is one too many,” said ISP Director Hiram Grau. “Although there are many factors that contribute to the reduction of traffic crash fatalities, it is no coincidence that seat belt compliance in Illinois has increased, as the number of fatalities has decreased.”

Grau also pointed to the fact that public safety partnerships and awareness campaigns also contribute to the compliance level of motorists and passengers.

ISP continues to support safety education programs and initiatives that have had a direct impact on public safety and have reduced the number of traffic crash fatalities on Illinois roadways. As of Dec. 29, preliminary data indicates Illinois has experienced 821 traffic crash fatalities in 2011, which are 26 fatalities fewer than the same time period in 2010.

Following is a breakdown of the new laws:

Seat belts for all occupants — Illinois State Police will enforce a new seat belt law that requires all passengers of a motor vehicle to be properly restrained when the vehicle is operated on a street or highway.

The previous legislation only required the front-seat driver and passenger and passengers younger than 19 to wear a seat belt. The new legislation requires ALL passengers traveling inside a vehicle to be properly restrained. The new law does not apply to backseat taxicab passengers, authorized emergency vehicles or those issued a medical exemption.

Enforcement of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulation — This new regulation prohibits the use of a hand-held mobile device by anyone driving a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV). The regulation also prohibits Motor Carriers from requiring drivers to use a hand-held device while operating a CMV on a highway. The only exceptions are when the mobile device is being used with a hands-free application, when the CMV is pulled over and completely stopped at a safe location, or when a CMV driver is requesting emergency police or fire services.

Since the inception of distracted driving laws in 2010, the Illinois State Police has issued more than 19,540 citations and written warnings to distracted drivers. Commercial motor vehicle operators account for 2.5 percent of the citations and warnings issued.

A mobile telephone is considered a mobile communication device that falls under or uses any commercial mobile radio service as defined by the Federal Communications Commission. The definition does not include two-way or Citizens Band (CB) radio services.

CMV drivers will only be allowed to utilize a hand-held mobile telephone under the following circumstances:

• When the driver uses a hands-free means of communication (i.e. Bluetooth, ear piece);

When the driver has moved the vehicle to the side of, or off, a highway and has halted in a location where the vehicle can safely remain stationary, or

The driver is involved in an emergency situation that requires police or fire services.

Truck speed limits — In July 2011, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signed into law Public Act 97-0202, which amended the Illinois Vehicle Code’s Speed Restrictions. The new law will take effect Jan. 3, 2012, and increases the speed limit for second division vehicles traveling on four-lane highways where the speed limit is 65 miles per hour.

The legislation removes the split speed limit provision for second division vehicles with gross weights of 8,001 pounds (or more) operated on a four-lane highway outside the counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will. The previous law restricted second division vehicles to a maximum speed of 55 miles per hour.

Signs posting the new speed limits throughout the state will be coordinated by the Illinois Department of Transportation around snow and ice removal operations. The removal of the signs is scheduled to begin in January.

ISP Districts will be coordinating enforcement efforts statewide and have identified problem areas and roads to target for the New Year holiday weekend. Roadside safety check patrols are already under way, and law enforcement officials will be enforcing the laws to ensure that motorists arrive at their final destinations safely.

Illinois State Police are responsible for the public safety of the citizens of Illinois and patrol more than 20,000 miles of the state’s highways.

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