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Take your thumbs off the keypad and put your hands on the wheel -- it's now illegal to text-message while driving.

A state law that takes effect Friday also bans checking e-mail, updating Facebook and Web surfing while driving, though using your phone's GPS is still OK.

"We want everyone to keep their attention on the roadway," said Capt. Scott Compton, an Illinois State Police spokesman. "Texting and cell phone use is a distraction that not only takes your eyes off the road, but often takes more than one hand to do."

The texting ban is one of nearly 300 new laws taking effect with the new year, ranging from ethics reforms in the wake of ex- Gov. Rod Blagojevich's ouster to how credit card companies can market on college campuses.

But the new rule likely to affect people's daily lives the most is the law prohibiting drivers from sending or reading electronic messages on hand-held devices. Drivers can text only to report an emergency or if they put the vehicle in park or neutral while stopped in traffic or on the shoulder.

"It's a very good thing," said Myra Wyatt, 42, of Lincoln Park. "Just yesterday I was texting in rush-hour traffic, and this new law will definitely make me think twice."

The new law will have to be enforced, but it's a primary offense. That means police will be able to pull over drivers for it, similar to the power they have if motorists fail to wear a seat belt.

While most motorists interviewed by the Tribune on Thursday applauded the law, many were skeptical that it could be enforced.


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