Lawmakers propose harsher penalties for texting and driving crashes

By Cole Lauterbach
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois lawmakers are working on creating a harsher penalty for people who cause a serious injury to another person while texting and driving.

Under the proposal, a driver who causes great bodily harm to another while distracted by using a phone or other electronic device would face a $1,000 fine and a year without a license. Currently, the penalty is $75, along with other punishments for dangerous driving.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Norine Hammond, R-Macomb, came after a constituent in her district that lost his leg in a crash where the other driver was texting while behind the wheel.

“He has incurred thousands of dollars in medical bills and incredible challenges as a result,” she said.

State Rep. Mike Unes, R-East Peoria, said the stiffer penalties would discourage the dangerous behavior.

“Some that thought about texting and driving would maybe think twice about it because of the harm it could cause,” he said.

State Rep. Melissa Conyears-Ervin, D-Chicago, said the bill would disproportionately affect low-income people.

“Increasing the fine does not necessarily mean that the behavior will discontinue,” she said.

Likewise, state Rep. Marcus Evans, a Chicago Democrat who grew up in a low-income family, said many families wouldn’t be able to absorb the cost of $1,000 or be able to pay it without having a license to get to work.

Others agreed that the cost was too high, but still endorsed the idea, saying $75 was too low to be a real deterrent for what has become a widespread habit. The bill now needs a vote on the House floor before it can be reported to the Senate.

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