2012 brings — NEW LAWS to Illinois residents

Marty Dolan, principal at Dolan Law and his associate Karen Munoz represent victims of wrongful death and personal injury. His column “Law and Wellness,” appears in the Chicago Lawyer and her column appears regularly in the Law Bulletin. This week’s blog is written by Karen Munoz.

Every year inevitably brings bills into effect as law. This year is no exception as there were 200 plus laws in total that came into effect on Jan. 1. Of course, they are not all major changes that will affect every person in the state; some will have a big impact and some others represent small but significant changes to many citizens.

One which will affect most citizens, even those who do not drive, is the new seat belt law.  Essentially every adult backseat passenger in a car must be buckled in. Illinois joins a growing list of states, now 26 in total, that have mandatory seat belt laws for everyone in a car. This is also the law in many European countries and can only have a positive impact on road safety.

Another law affecting Illinois motorists is the provision which allows for a rental car company to provide the name of a previous renter to the Secretary of State to ensure the renter of a car, not the rental company, receives any citation issued to them as the result of an automated traffic camera.

Drivers of commercial vehicles will also be affected by certain changes to the law this year. Firstly, Department of Transportation regulations prohibit CMV drivers from holding, dialing or reaching for a hand-held cell phone. This language is broad enough to outlaw attempts to circumvent the rules by using speakerphone so CMV drivers will have to either pull over into a safe zone or use a hands free device, although the use of CB radios is still permitted. Secondly, the speed limit for large trucks on four-lane divided highways is now uniform with cars. This means that large trucks can now travel at the same speed as cars throughout the state rather than just Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties.

Moving away from traffic laws, the School Code has also been amended to assist school boards and administrators in tackling cyber-bullying. 105 ILCS 5/10-22.6 now permits school officials to suspend or even expel a student who makes explicit threats to another student or a school employee over the Internet. This can only be a good thing as it is well-known that children today engage in serious bullying online and we have all read some of the tragic stories about teen suicides that have been attributed to cyber-bullying.

Another law which will hopefully serve to protect children to some extent is HB 3358, which amends the State Employees Group Insurance Act of 1971, Counties Code, Illinois Municipal Code, School Code, Health Maintenance Organization Act, and Voluntary Health Services Plans Act to accord with the provisions of the Illinois Insurance Code concerning coverage for abuse victims. In effect, cities, county governments and school districts most now include in all insurance plans, similar provisions covering the subjects of abuse.

Many of these laws probably won’t have much of an impact on most of our personal or professional lives but it is still worth taking the time to read through the changes this new year just in case.

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