Recently, the state of Illinois passed a law prohibiting the use of handheld cell phones while driving. The goal of the legislation was to prevent motor vehicle collisions caused by distracted driving – more specifically, the distractions created by trying to talk, dial, or text on a cell phone while behind the wheel of a car.
This week, Chicago took that idea one step further.
On Wednesday, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance that would prohibit handheld cell phone use while cycling in the city. The council is trying the reduce the chances of accidents caused by cyclists who are talking or texting on a handheld cell phone. Like the cell phone use ban in vehicles, cyclists are permitted to utilize hands-free devices to make cell phone calls. Also, cyclists can use handheld cell phones for any reason if they are not moving.
The law, which will go into effect in November, calls for a $20 fine for a bicyclist caught using a handheld cell phone while cycling. That amount can rise to as high as $100 for a third citation. However, if the illegal cell phone use causes an accident, the fine could shoot up to as much as $500.
This new cell phone ordinance may also have ramifications on liability questions in bicycle-vehicle accidents in the city. If a cyclist is using a handheld cell phone and gets involved in a wreck with a vehicle, the driver may not necessarily be held responsible for the cyclist’s injuries because the bicycle rider was engaging in an illegal activity. Also, if that scofflaw cyclist were to somehow cause a motor vehicle accident that resulted in injuries, the cyclist could be assigned part (or all) of the blame and become exposed to a personal injury lawsuit filed by victims of the wreck.