New year, new traffic laws in local state


Reporter - Kendall Downing

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Ill. - Out with the old, in with the new, and drivers in Illinois have two big reasons to listen up as we head into the new year.

Major changes in how you can talk on your cell phone and what speed you can drive are prompting police to remind drivers to be careful when they hit the road in 2014.

The biggest change for drivers will be doing away with that hand-held cell phone when behind the wheel and switching to hands-free options. Hand-held cell phones are banned while driving.

"People are creatures of habit. They hear that phone ring, and they pick it up off the seat and talk," said John Eibeck, Marion Police Chief.

Eibeck said the behavior will be tough to break.

"I think it's going to be like any new law. It's going to take time for people to get used to it," he said.

Though police are exempt from the hand-held ban, Eibeck said the city of Marion wants officers to put down their phones, too. That's why the department bought speakers to mount in police cruisers.

In 2014, traffic will move faster on rural interstates. Lawmakers upped the speed limit on Illinois interstates to 70 miles an hour, and Governor Pat Quinn signed off despite resistance from Illinois State Police and the Illinois Department of Transportation.

While Marion police don't patrol interstates, Eibeck said they're well aware of all the new laws in 2014. They hope people passing through know about them, too.

"People that are coming from outside the area will realize, I have to comply with this," said Eibeck.

The chief said Marion Police will likely start with verbal and written warnings in regard to the hand-held cell phone ban. Again, that law goes into effect on January 1, 2014.