'Siri, Tell Me About The Hands-Free Law'

Dec 31, 2013

Bluetooth headsets are among the ways one will be permitted to talk and drive beginning in 2014. Holding a phone, however, will be banned under Illinois law.
Credit Flickr user DeclanTM (Creative Commons)

Jan. 1 brings a new Illinois law that limits talking on the phone while driving. It's often been referred to as "cell phone ban." But it's actually a bit more nuanced.

The law starts out by saying you cannot drive while using an electronic device such as a phone or laptop. But it's not that cut-and-dry. For example, you can place a call if it only requires pressing one button.

SIRI: *ding*
MACKEY: Siri, can you make a call for me?
SIRI: "With whom would you like to speak?"
MACKEY: How about Illinois State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond?

"Hands must be on the wheel, and there will be no more talking on the phone, or using or holding of a cell phone," Bond says.

And that's the key point: using a headset or a speaker phone seems to be legal. But if you're caught holding a phone, the fines start at $75.

Illinois law already bans texting while driving. But the law does not apply to GPS devices, CB radios, or portable music players.