Law bans teen-agers using cell phones while driving

By Gus Bode

Learning to use the stick shift in her car is hard enough for 16-year-old Carbondale resident Caitlyn Ruph, even without the distraction of a cell phone to her ear, she said.

“I have just a little Trac Phone and I hardly ever use it,” Ruph said.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a new law Friday that bans anyone under age 18 from using a cell phone while driving in Illinois.


Before the ban, Derek Ruph has always cautioned his daughter, Caitlyn, to not distract herself while driving.

“As a new driver and a young driver, all I can do is suggest something,” Derek Ruph said. “”I trust her to make the right decisions.”

While he knows his daughter will follow the law, he said it would not necessarily make her safer on the road because there are other laws, like speed limits, that get broken all the time.

He said he does not think all teen-agers will abide by the new ban.

Furthermore, the behavior of drivers on cell phones will more likely lead officers to pull someone over than how old they look, University Director of Public Safety Todd Sigler said.

Carbondale Police Chief Steve Odum said enforcement of the law will be on a secondary basis.

Caitlyn Ruph, who has had her license for about a month, said she does not think the law is unfair to drivers her age.


“We are less experienced,” she said.

But she also said the law should be extended to everyone, because cell phones cause problems for all drivers. Sigler said drivers under age 18 should be especially watched, but all drivers need to be careful while using a cell phone when behind the wheel.

Banning cell phone use while driving is not uncommon throughout the United States or even Illinois. Chicago now requires all drivers to use a headset if they want to talk on a cell phone while driving.

“We have taken all of our day-to-day habits into the cars with us,” Sigler said.

In 2003, the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration reported 3,571 drivers age 16 to 18 were killed.

The new ban for teen-agers is one of several new Illinois laws aimed at teen-age drivers. With the cell phone ban came a new law making drivers under 18 responsible for making sure all teen-age passengers use safety belts.

There is also a law that limits the number of passengers teen-age drivers can have during their first six months with a driver’s license.

Reporter Destiny Remezas can be reached at [email protected]