Illinois Highway Safety Laws

Driving on highways is a fact of daily life for many Illinois residents. The laws that govern the operation of cars, trucks and motorcycles are constantly evolving, in an attempt to keep drivers safe. Illinois has several laws that are applicable to highway drivers. While it is not necessary to know each and every law, knowing the basics can help drivers avoid accidents and traffic tickets.

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Long Illinois Highway Safety Laws scaled

Distracted Driving

Illinois has a ban on hand-held devices, such as cell phones, while driving. This means no texting, speaking on the phone or utilizing GPS devices, unless they are hands-free.

Distracted driving is a factor in over one million crashes across North America each year. When a driver takes their eyes off the road, even for a moment, it can have devastating consequences.

The Illinois State Police suggests the following, for driving distraction-free:

  • Pull over in a safe location to take a phone call, answer a text or send an email.
  • Adjust radios, seats and climate control before hitting the road.
  • Don’t multi-task while driving.
  • Park in a safe place to care for children.
  • Don’t eat or drink on the road.

Child Safety

All passengers in Illinois cars are required to wear seat belts. There are also specific laws that apply to children.

  • Children under one year of age and weighing less than 20 pounds must ride in a rear-facing infant car seat or convertible seat.
  • Once they have grown out of a rear-facing seat, children must sit in a forward-facing seat with a harness system, until the weight limit is reached.
  • A belt-positioning booster seat must be used for children ages 4-8 or until the appropriate weight and height requirements are met.

Driving Under the Influence

Drunk and drugged driving is responsible for hundreds of deaths, along with hundreds more serious injuries, in Illinois each year. Illinois has specific laws regarding driving under the influence. Operating any motor vehicle while drunk or under the influence of drugs is not permitted in Illinois. Certain prescribed medications are included in these laws. Even if a blood-alcohol level is not above the legal limit in Illinois, a driver may be cited for a DUI, based on their behavior.

  • A first offense could lead to a one-year loss of driving privileges, a one year prison sentence, and a fine of up to $2,500.
  • A second offense could lead to a five-year loss of driving privileges, a mandatory five day imprisonment or 240 hours of community service, possible imprisonment for up to one year and a fine of up to $2,500.
  • A third offense is considered a Class 2 felony and could come with a ten-year loss of driving privileges, mandatory 18-30 month prison sentence, possible imprisonment of up to seven years and a fine of up to $25,000.

Illinois does conduct sobriety checkpoints at a rate of several hundred per year.

Driver’s Licenses

Driver’s licenses are required for anyone operating a motor vehicle on Illinois highways. The minimum age for a learner-stage license is 15, and licensed drivers must be 16 years of age. Illinois has implemented a graduated driver licensing program for first-time drivers under the age of 18. This law gives teens increasing driving privileges as they reach specific ages and complete mandatory education and practice requirements.


Violation of speed limits is a major safety concern. Illinois has specific speed limits for highway driving, including:

70 mph on rural interstates

65 mph on urban freeways and divided roads

55 mph on divided roads

30 mph in residential areas

Special speed limits may be in place for construction, school and hospital zones. Speed limits for these areas are strictly enforced. Driving over the speed limit in Illinois can lead to traffic citations, fines, license suspension or arrest. Speed monitors, such as red-light cameras are governed by local ordinance.

Motorcycle Laws

Illinois does not have a mandatory helmet law for motorcycle riders, however, helmets are recommended. There are some specific legal requirements for motorcycle riders.

  • Protective eyewear is required, unless the vehicle is equipped with a windscreen.
  • A footrest and passenger seat are required for motorcyclists carrying passengers.
  • At least one rear-view mirror must be installed on the vehicle.
  • Headlights are required, day and night.
  • The handlebar height is required to be below the shoulders.
  • Motorcycle drivers must pass a separate written and road exam, based on the classification of their vehicle.
  • Like cars, motorcycles must have valid license plates.

While some highway laws in Illinois are consistent across the state, some local areas have individual laws with separate court costs and surcharges attached. Violations of state traffic laws could lead to a suspended or revoked license, hefty fines and even jail time. Those who have been injured in an accident due to violation of a highway law may consult with an Illinois car accident attorney to help determine if a liability case exists.

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