Texting and driving


Northern Star Photo Illustration

By Hailey Kurth

When it comes to using a phone while driving, many people are not sure of the law. Just to be safe, one might want to go to the extent of throwing their cell in the glove box at the sight of a police car.

DeKalb Police Sgt. James McDougall said texting while driving is illegal; there are exceptions though.

According to the Illinois General Assembly website, the law states, “this does not apply to when the vehicle is stopped due to normal traffic being obstructed and the driver has the motor vehicle transmission in neutral or park.”

McDougall said this could include things such as stopping at a stop light or being stopped for normal traffic.

“This is a kind of crazy one,” McDougall said. “Why they have that? I don’t know.”

Assistant State’s Attorney Julie Trevarthen said generally speaking, talking on a cell phone while driving is legal. Trevarthen said there are, however, certain areas where you cannot.

McDougall said school zones and construction zones are illegal areas to talk on a cell phone while driving, equivalent with state law. Adolescents under 19 with an instruction permit or graduate license cannot talk on the phone while driving at all, McDougall said.

“It’s a tough law to enforce, but it’s a safety thing,” McDougall said. “They can’t take your phone away [to verify phone use], although they may ask.”

Trevarthen said if an officer asks to see a driver’s phone, the driver can say they aren’t consenting to the officer’s request. The police, however, could get a search warrant for the phone.

“There’s nothing that they can do to ultimately stop the police from getting the information,” Trevarthen said.

As far as iPods and other hand-held music devices go, Trevarthen said she assumes it’s no different than changing the station on the radio.

“As far as I know, they’re not restricting being able to use gadgets, or that kind of stuff,” Trevarthen said. “It’s that continuous ongoing attention that is directed in having to text, staring at your phone and staring at your keyboard, that they’re trying to prevent for safety.”

According to the website, the law does not have restrictions against “a global position system, GPS, or navigation system or a device that is physically or electronically integrated into the motor vehicle.”