SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois House voted Thursday to penalize drivers who use hand-held cell phones behind the wheel, but opponents said the idea is unenforceable.

SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois House voted Thursday to penalize drivers who use hand-held cell phones behind the wheel, but opponents said the idea is unenforceable.

The measure, HB3972, would require drivers to use hands-free phones or similar devices to hold cellular conversations while on the road. It was approved by a 62-53 House vote.

In addition to fines, starting at $75 for a first offense, illegal use of a cell phone while driving would count as a moving violation, said Rep. John D’Amico, D-Chicago, the bill’s chief sponsor.

“If we want to get serious about stopping distracted driving and saving lives on the roadway, there needs to be a severe penalty involved,” he said.

State Reps. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg, Wayne Rosenthal, R-Morrisonville, and Jim Watson, R-Jacksonville, all voted against the bill.

“It’s unenforceable. I think what would make more sense would be to encourage car manufacturers to put (cell phone-answering technology) in the vehicle instead of saying, ‘You can’t do this,’” Brauer said. .

Poe said the proposal aims at the wrong problem.

“I think most of it is texting,” Poe said. “I really don’t think it’s phone calls.”

D’Amico said people who drive while talking on cell phones are taking “everyone else’s life in their own hand.”

He said 76 municipalities, including Chicago, already have some sort of ban on cell phones while driving, including Chicago. If the Senate and Gov. Pat Quinn sign off on D’Amico’s bill, Illinois would become the 10th state to ban use of cell phones while driving, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

David Thomas can be reached at (217) 782-6292.

Roll call on cell phone ban