Galva Police Sgt. Kraig Townsend is reminding area citizens of Illinois' new law regarding cell-phone usage while driving.

Starting Jan. 1, the new law deals with "distracted driving." It bans drivers in Illinois from using a cell phone that isn't hands-free. It also increases penalties for distracted drivers who cause accidents.

The ban still allows usage of hands-free phones. Drivers will need to consider purchasing a headset, Bluetooth device, or something similar.

In addition to the new law, drivers should be reminded that:

• A person may not operate a motor vehicle on a roadway while using an electronic communication device to compose, send, or read an electronic message. (Became law on Jan. 1, 2010)

• A person regardless of age, may not use a wireless telephone at any time while operating a motor vehicle on a roadway in a school zone or in a construction zone. (Became law on July 15, 2005.)

The penalty for using a hand-held cell phone while driving is a $75 fine for first-time offenders. Repeat offenders will face steeper fines. Using a hand-held phone will become a "moving violation," which means that enough violations can lead to a license suspension.

According to the Illinois State Police, 23 percent of car accidents in the U.S. are due to "distracted driving."

"The use of cell phones, or any other device (especially in our school zones) are a safety concern," Townsend said. "We ask the public to use caution while driving to ensure that our children as well as all other pedestrians and motorists are safe as they commute to their destinations."