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Steep Fines For Drivers Using Their Phones While On The Road

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Drivers who text and drive are about to get hit hard in Illinois.

A new law ends the warnings and hands out steep fines. Police can even take your license.

CBS 2's Eric Cox rode along with one police officer and has the story from Aurora and it didn't take long to find law breakers.

Just one button - that's all motorists are allowed to press with this new law in place. Anything after that, and it's considered a moving violation. Aurora police said more than 233 people have been stopped for texting while out on the road last month alone.

CBS 2 rode alongside Aurora police officer Chris Weaver as a new law targeting distracted drivers takes effect in Illinois

"It can wait. It can wait," Weaver said.

Motorist Charmin Edwards agreed.

"Nothing's that important that you need to text and drive. Nothing," Edwards said.

First time offenders caught with cell phone in hand are no longer given a free pass, but instead a violation that appears on their driving record.

Rack up three of those in a year and your license is suspended.

"It's unfortunate that we have to go to this extreme to make people stop doing it," Edwards said.

In the Loop, CBS 2 spotted driver after driver on their phones. Some with their foot on the gas, others while stopped.

But both are illegal if your car isn't in park or neutral.

"You want to make that brief text real quick 'hey I'm on my way' but just that brief second is enough to cause some serious damage," Weaver said.

He isn't wrong.

Ten motorists lose their lives every day due to distracted driving. Tony Vorres admitted that he heard about the new law and is aware of its consequences.

"I've got to be careful. So does everybody else," Vorres said.

Careful, because Illinois State Police issued 6,900 distracted driving citations in the first six months of 2019. Last year, the department handed out a total of 15,150 violations.

"If you absolutely have to take that call, if you have to make that text, just simply pull over," Weaver said.

There are a couple of exceptions to the new law.

Hands-free use and headsets are both allowed.

Also, reporting an emergency or using your phone when traffic has come to a complete halt, like at a railroad crossing, okay according to the law.

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