By Andres Luz
Whitney Young
and Laura Bartusiak
Woodlands academy

This year new driving laws went into effect in Illinois, changing the rules of the road when it comes to speeding and using cellphones—and adding some harsher consequences for violators.

Speed limits
One new state law increases the speed limit on rural interstate highways from 65 mph to 70. Some counties and urban areas like Chicago will keep the 55-mph limit. To some teens, a faster speed limit makes them wary about safety on the roads. “I am a bit scared about the reckless drivers out there because bumping (up) the speed limit may encourage them to go faster,” said Sasha Alsberg, a junior at Woodlands Academy.

Another new law creates tougher penalties for speeding violations. Drivers caught going 26-34 mph over the speed limit will be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, which can come with a maximum $1,500 fine and up to 180 days in jail. Drivers speeding 35 mph or higher will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which can result in $2,500 in fines and as long as a year in jail. Glenbrook North senior Zoe Kaufman said she believes the harsher penalties will help prevent speeding. “Who wants to pay the price if the consequence is higher?” she said.

Cellphones and texting
Handheld phones are now hands off while you’re driving. Evanston Police Commander Jay Parrott explained: “Before, you could not compose, send or read an electronic message. With the new law, you can’t use any handheld device while driving a vehicle.”

If you’ve heard about the exception that allows you to use hands-free technology such as a Bluetooth device, speakerphone or ear buds, forget it. That only applies to drivers who are 19 and older.

The consequences for breaking the texting law are serious. If a driver causes a crash while using a cellphone and the other motorist is seriously injured, the distracted driver could be fined up to $2,500 and sentenced to less than a year in jail if convicted. If the accident is fatal, the distracted driver could face up to $25,000 in fines and three years in jail. “I think that texting while driving no matter what situation is bad,” said Alsberg, the Woodlands student. “I believe that if the accident is fatal, three years in jail is fair because they did take a life, and it was their fault.”

Whether you’re an experienced driver or new to the road, just remember to be safe and smart. There can be serious repercussions for your actions, and the consequences for violating Illinois’ new driving laws could have a lasting impact on your life.

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About The Mash

The Mash is the Chicago Tribune's newspaper and website written for teens, by teens. The paper is distributed for free every other Thursday at Chicago-area high schools and is written largely by high school students.

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