The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Record Number of Tickets Being Written for Driving While Using Cell Phones

By Chuck Sudo in News on Nov 11, 2011 5:40PM

Young woman screams while driving image via Shutterstock.
Chicago is citing more drivers for not using hands free cell phone devices while driving, according to a report in yesterday's Tribune.

Police issued 23,292 tickets for using a cellphone while driving last year, which marks a 73 percent increase since 2006 and the highest numbers in a single year since the ban went into effect. Another interesting fact: thanks to a change in the ordinance three years ago, citations for the offense now go to the city's Administrative Hearings Department and not Cook County traffic court. Coupled with an increase in the fine from $50 to up to $500, Chicago is raking in more revenue from the citations at the expense of Cook County and the state.

Tribune reporter Leonor Vivanco discovered the moves and the increase in revenue while doing research for the article.

"The process took time. The Chicago Police Department sent me to the Cook County Traffic Court. When I requested how many tickets for the offense had been written in recent years, they supplied me with data and told me that tickets also go to the city’s Administrative Hearings Department. All the data showed a noticeable shift in tickets going from Traffic Court to Administrative Hearings.

"I was curious how much in fines had been paid to the city through these tickets. I also began looking into whether the city has changed the fine amount -- and found they steadily had increased it."

City Law Department spokesman Roderick Drew said the change in the ordinance was made to bring it in compliance with the Illinois Vehicle Code, which classifies some cellphone violations as equipment violations. The city position is that the citations don't need to be reported to the state or county.

Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown said the change cost the county nearly $860,000 last year. People who are cited for violating the ordinance also found out the hard way that they're also liable for an extra $40 in court costs if they contest the tickets, and that most of the cases don't favor them.