Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

February 27, 2013

Cellphone ban bill draws local opposition

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — The Illinois General Assembly is again considering a ban on all handheld cellular phone usage while driving. But one area representative said he will again vote against the proposed ban.

"We've tweaked around the edges of this issue," said Rep. David Reis, R-Ste. Marie. "We've banned them (cellphones) around construction zones and schools.

"So where do we stop?" Reis asked. "Are we going to ban eating McDonalds while driving, or putting on makeup?

"What about having more than one child in the back seat while driving, because the kids could start fighting and the parents would have to do what parents do?"

Reis said House Bill 1247, which would ban all handheld cellphone usage while driving, smacks too much of the proverbial nanny state legislation.

"That's why I don't support it," he said.

Other critics of the bill say forcing motorists to buy a hands-free device would drive up the cost of owning and operating mobile phones.

  Rep. John Cavaletto, R-Salem, said the bill is nothing more than an intrusion on what has become normal adult behavior.

"I think we're big enough people to realize when we shouldn't be driving and talking on the phone at the same time," Cavaletto said. "We're big enough to make those kinds of decisions without having a law to guide us."

Cavaletto said he had never heard of anybody in rural southern Illinois dying as the result of an accident related to cellphone use.

"We've got a lot of wide-open spaces in this part of the state," he said. "We don't have the traffic jams that people up north do.

"I think it's just too much."

HB 1247 was sponsored by Rep. John D'Amico, D-Chicago, who introduced the bill Feb. 1. The bill eventually landed in the Transportation Committee that D'Amico chairs. The committee passed the bill on a 5-3-1 vote that essentially followed party lines, and was forwarded to the full House. The House is not scheduled to vote on the bill anytime soon.

D'Amico was unavailable for comment Tuesday, but the Southern Illinoisan newspaper in Carbondale quoted him last week after the committee vote.

"A hand-held cellphone is a huge distraction while driving a car," D'Amico told the newspaper.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com.