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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Take the pledge

The Matt's Law Coalition is still at work attempting to create the stiffer penalties for distracted drivers involved in fatal accidents in Illinois.

The Coalition fell short last year in getting the Illinois General Assembly into creating the offense of Negligent Vehicular Homicide, which would provide stronger penalties than what are not available under Illinois traffic law.

The image above is of a billboard the Coalition put up near Gibson City, Ill., and more are expected to be put up in the Champaign-Urbana area.

The Coalition is named for Matt Wilhelm, who died in September 2006 of injuries suffered when a woman downloading a cell phone ringtone struck his bicycle.

Because Illinois does not have a Negligent Vehicular Homicide law similar to 35 other states, the driver was only charged with improper lane usage, a petty offense with a maximum fine of $1,000. Champaign County prosecutors determined that it would have been difficult to charge the driver with Reckless Homicide because the circumstances did not fit the legal definition of that offense under current Illinois law.

The Coalition is calling on drivers to take a pledge that reads:
I pledge that . . .
  • I will not talk on my cell phone while driving.
  • I will not converse with someone who calls me on a cell phone while driving.
  • By my actions and influence, I will encourage others to drive safely.
My individual choices, when multiplied by those of others, will make the roads safer for all. By honoring this pledge, we will save lives together.
The Coalition has posted a PDF version of the pledge on its Web site, and its encouraging people to sign it and post it where others can see it.

It also has a petition for people living in the Champaign-Urbana area calling for a ban on cell phone usage. The Urbana City Council Study Committee is expected to consider the ban March 24, with action by the full council expected April 7.

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