Friday, April 15, 2011

Woodstock school zones & cell phones

The Woodstock Independent this week carries a short notice of the April "traffic initiative" of the Woodstock Police Department. Maybe this is a good time to refresh yourself on the new Illinois law that became effective 15 months ago. Sure, you have probably read about or heard about it, but do you observe it?

If you are on your handheld cell phone and in a school zone during school hours, get ready to part with a hefty chunk of change (read: dollar bills). I believe the minimum fine is in the area of $250, with minimum court courts of $125; if that's correct, then that cell phone call could cost you $375, if a Woodstock officer stops you in a school zone between 7:00AM-4:00PM when children are present.

So the question becomes, is this an educational campaign (are any warnings issued?) or is it a fund-raising event for the courts and the City, and eventually for the P.D.? Do officers have a quota for traffic tickets? Is it like at the McHenry County Sheriff's Department, where they have a "non-quota quota"? Are certain privileges received as rewards for high numbers of tickets; for example, getting to drive the unmarked squad car?

How does the officer decide whether to issue a ticket or a warning, barring any driving act that actually endangers a child? What driving act might that be? Failing to yield to a student or other person at a crosswalk? Disregarding school bus signals (a major violation in its own right); speeding in a school zone.

During a Special Traffic Enforcement Initiative, do Woodstock officers have the privilege of exercising discretion to issue a warning, rather than a $375 ticket? Or must they issue the ticket, if they stop a driver who is on a cell phone while the school zone is "hot"?

Could the soccer mom who is stopped, with the car's engine running to stay warm, and waiting outside the school (but in a school zone) get a ticket for talking on her cell phone? Sure, she could. If the engine is running, she is "operating" a motor vehicle; the law doesn't say it has to be moving.

By the way, the same handheld cell phone rules apply in construction zones throughout the state. So, when you are blasting into Chicago on I-90 and hit that long 45MPH Work Zone (where no one slows down (except me)), remember to hang up that phone.

There are certain exceptions - using a BlueTooth or the phone's speakerphone; also, calling 9-1-1. But I know a driver who, while in Chicago, merely answered her phone and immediately put it on speakerphone and placed it on the car seat. That driver got a $100 ticket from CPD and paid $40 court costs on top of it. Just one more reason to stay out of Chicago.

Want to read the law? Go to and click on "Illinois Compiled Statutes". Then work your way to 625 ILCS 5/12/610.1

Public Act 096-0131


Cal Skinner said...

What about the kids who walk out of school and make a cell phone call?

Gus said...

Sure makes you wonder about respect for the school policy of no cell phone use on school property; right?

Alex said...

So you are saying your step son has no respect for school policy?

Gus said...

Alex, not sure what you are talking about.

I don't have a stepson who is a student in a school with a no-cell-phones-on-campus policy.

tiredofthenonsense said...

No 'no cell phone policy' on the police blotter either.