Illinois' New Hands-Free Law a 'Significant First Step' to Responsible Driving, Wireless Phone Use in the State

Illinois' New Hands-Free Law a 'Significant First Step' to Responsible Driving, Wireless Phone Use in the State

July 25, 2001


A new state law that allows drivers to use hands-free devices with their wireless phones is a "significant first step" in promoting responsible driving on roads and highways throughout Illinois, said Greg Klimek, president, Illinois/Wisconsin Region, Verizon Wireless.

Prior to enactment of the new law Wednesday, Illinois drivers could not use their wireless phones with any hands-free device that covered either of their ears. Since drivers were legally prohibited from using most of the less-expensive and accessible hands-free devices, such as earbuds and one-sided headsets, many drivers held their phones and drove with only one hand on the wheel.

"It is common sense that drivers should keep both hands on the wheel when operating their vehicles," Klimek said in response to Gov. George Ryan's signing the bill into law today. "Being able to use hands-free devices, such as earbuds and headsets, gives wireless phone users the opportunity to drive more responsibly while continuing to take advantage of the convenience and reliability offered by wireless phones."

Verizon Wireless, the largest wireless communications provider in the nation, was a staunch supporter of House Bill 10, the legislation the governor signed into law today, and is an industry leader in encouraging and educating drivers to use their wireless phones responsibly.

"We applaud the Illinois General Assembly and Governor Ryan for showing their strong commitment to responsible driving and for acknowledging the positive use of wireless phones while driving," Klimek said. "Now, we encourage lawmakers and the administration to take the next step in responsible driving by requiring motorists statewide to use hands-free devices when talking on their wireless phones while they are driving."

Verizon Wireless is the only wireless communications provider to endorse and actively support statewide legislation for hands-free wireless phone use. The company has been active in many states, such as New York where the nation's first statewide hands-free law was passed in June, assisting legislators in crafting reasonable and functional bills.

According to Klimek, Verizon Wireless now will work with legislators in Illinois to introduce legislation that:

  • Requires the use of hands-free devices such as earbuds and headsets;
  • Exempts from penalty emergency calls made with handsets to 911 and other emergency service providers;
  • Ensures uniformity across the state by preempting all local ordinances restricting the use of wireless phones;
  • Assesses penalties no greater than those for careless driving;
  • Allows for a reasonable "phase-in" period to give consumers time to upgrade their handsets to ensure hands-free capability.
  • "Illinois should join New York - and other states where this issue is under consideration - in requiring drivers to use hands-free devices," Klimek said.

    Besides supporting hands-free legislation, Verizon Wireless is requiring that by January 2002 handset vendors provide only phones with hands-free capabilities and challenging them to develop additional technologies such as voice-activated dialing that make the in-vehicle use of wireless phones easier. For now, Verizon Wireless sells hands-free devices beginning at $9.95, so all customers have ready and affordable access to these products.

    About Verizon Wireless

    Verizon Wireless is the largest wireless communications provider in the U.S. with more than 28 million wireless voice and data customers. The coast-to-coast wireless provider was formed by the combination of the U.S. wireless businesses of Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) and Vodafone (NYSE and LSE: VOD), including Bell Atlantic Mobile, AirTouch Cellular, GTE Wireless and PrimeCo Personal Communications. Verizon Wireless has a footprint covering more than 90 percent of the U.S. population, 49 of the top 50 and 97 of the top 100 U.S. markets. The company, headquartered in Bedminster, NJ, is 40,000 employees strong. Reporters and editors can find more information about the company on the Web at http://www.verizonwireless.com.