On August 16, 2013, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a new law banning the use of hand-held cell phone devices while driving a motor vehicle in Illinois. Cell phone use while driving in the state became illegal on January 1, 2014 when the law when into effect. Illinois is the first state in the Midwest to adopt such a ban and the twelfth state in the country to do so.

Texting and driving in Illinois is already illegal. Drivers of any age caught doing so can receive citations and fines. The new law, however, goes even further.

Drivers are prohibited from even holding a phone and pressing more than one button to dial a phone number. With the exception of two-way mobile radio and emergency calls, the new law effectively limits legal car phone usage to speaker phone, speed-dialing and Bluetooth devices. Violators caught on their cell phones behind the wheel can face a minimum fine of $75. Subsequent violations incur steeper fines.

In Illinois, a violation of state law by an employee can essentially make the employer liable for the employee’s conduct. An example of this could be: an employee getting involved in an automobile accident while driving a company or personal vehicle on company business. Both the employee and his/her employer could be held responsible due to the existence of the new cell phone ban. Therefore, businesses should be aware of this new change to the state law and its impact on the duties of their employees.

Does your business operate wholly or partially in Illinois? Do your employees use company vehicles, or even their own personal vehicles, while conducting official company business? If employees are required to drive for work, their violations of the cell phone ban in the scope of their duties could also be assigned to their employer.

What are some steps that a business can take to minimize its vicarious liability under the above scenario? One potential step is to update employee handbooks and company policy manuals to reflect that employees are required to adhere to the new law. Announce all updates immediately to all employees.

Specific issues of law should be handled with the advice of an attorney before being implemented. Please feel free to contact Anthony J. Madonia & Associates, Ltd. for further information on this topic.

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