Police Lax on Drivers Talking On Phones
JACKSON CO. -- Illinois banned cell phones at the wheel at the beginning of the year, but many police departments across Illinois aren't enforcing the law just yet.
Officers are taking it easy on drivers right now. Most have just given out warning citations. Of all the departments we surveyed, State Police in District 13 wrote the most. They're at only two citations, but that's expected to change in the coming weeks.
"We're just allowing them to learn the new way of communication while driving," explained Murphysboro Police Chief Brian Hollo.
He says the department has issued less than 10 verbal warnings about the use of phones at the wheel since the start of 2014.
"I think education is important before enforcement," Hollo added.
They've considered supply and demand of the technology and allowing drivers time to adjust.
"You've gotta be aware of what you're doing. You've got a 2,000 pound vehicle driving down the road. If you hit somebody, the chances of hitting and killing them are great," said Hollo.
While police are exempt from the law, Hollo's department now leads by example.
"We're not using our cell phones while we drive even though we can. I think it's very important to be aware of what's going on around us," he said.
Wednesday afternoon we still found many people using cell phones the old fashioned way. Hollo says it's not hard for officers to detect.
"If somebody's got a phone up to their ear it's pretty obvious they're making a phone call," he added.
Russell Schirmer from Elkville got a jumpstart on complying, buying his bluetooth a couple weeks ago.
"I was lucky. I got the last one. I really like it better because if somebody calls all you gotta do is
push that one bottom and you got 'em,"
The push for bluetooth has been good for business at Verizon in Carbondale.
"It's been driving a lot of traffic into the store and keeping us busy, keeping us on our toes," Manager Alex Peters enthused.
They offer about more than a dozen options, ranging from $20 to upwards of $200. Peters says drivers may be surprised by advances in the technology.
"Battery life is a big one and also just the sound quality of being able to cut out the background noise," added Peters.
Tickets for a cell phone violation will cost you $75, not including court costs. It seems stores are catching up with the demand. Police expect to crack down on violators in February.
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