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SPRINGFIELD - Motorists will have a variety of new rules to follow in 2006, from stricter seat-belt regulations for teenagers to fewer chances to keep moving violations off driving records.

As of today, all minors riding with a motorist under 19 years of age will have to wear safety belts. The proposal is aimed at reducing fatal accidents among teenage drivers, who are more likely to be involved in collisions.

"It's to protect the lives of young people," said Illinois State Police spokesman Rick Hector. "Teens are more likely to die in car crashes."

Hector said that teenagers make up about 6 percent of drivers but account for 16 percent of accidents.

Under another new law, motorists may only get two court supervisions annually for moving violations. According to the Secretary of State's office, 28 drivers have received court supervision 10 times or more in the last three years.

"Because the violations technically weren't convictions, my office could not suspend their licenses," said Secretary of State Jesse White in a press release. "Starting in January, we will be able to take action against these habitual offenders who jeopardize the safety of other motorists."

The state also has adopted tougher regulations for dealing with repeat drunk drivers. On a third conviction, a person could get a seven-year prison sentence. On a fourth conviction, a driver would not be eligible for probation or conditional discharge. On a fifth, conviction the penalty is upgraded to a Class 1 felony, which carries a maximum 15-year sentence without possibility of probation or conditional discharge.

Under another new law, vehicles can no longer be equipped with visual media technology such as televisions that are visible from the driver's seat. Fines run from $200 to $250.

Lawmakers also approved a law that would bar motorists from having any radar-jamming devices.

People violating the rule could be fined $50 to $100.

The state also has increased fines for illegally parking in a handicapped spot to $500. During the holiday season, the Illinois State Police patrolled shopping mall parking lots and handed out 200 tickets for illegally using handicapped parking spaces.

Along with tougher penalties, the state also is making it easier for medaled veterans to get the Gold Star license plate. Those who have been awarded the Gold Star do not have to pay an application fee.

The state also will allow a surviving spouse of a Purple Heart recipient to apply for the specialized plate honoring soldiers wounded in battle.


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