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State Police To Crack Down On Distracted Driving

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An Illinois state police trooper escaped death when a distracted driver collided with a pulled-over vehicle. (Illinois State Police)

An Illinois state police trooper escaped death when a distracted driver collided with a pulled-over vehicle. (Illinois State Police)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — It may be against the law in most parts of the state, but that doesn’t stop people from talking and texting while driving.

The Illinois State Police now plans to step up its enforcement effort, and they’re using one of their trooper’s experiences as a cautionary tale. 

You will likely see more troopers on the expressways around Chicago this year, CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports.

You won’t see Trooper Starlena Wilson right away. That’s because she’s still recovering from injuries that nearly killed her.

And she says it didn’t have to happen. 

“Nothing drove me more to survive the crash than the images of my daughter. I was determined to live and not yet ready to die,” Wilson said at a Friday news conference.

But Wilson nearly died during a traffic stop in February 2010. Wilson was standing at the driver’s side door when she heard a vehicle skidding. 

“By the time I heard the screeching of the tires, it was too late,” Wilson said.

The driver who plowed into Wilson was distracted by her cellular phone. She’s not the only one. 

Each year, federal officials say 6,000 people are killed by distracted or inattentive drivers. Another 500,000 are injured.

To cut down on those numbers, Illinois State Police are launching “Operation Star” in which they will ticket distracted drivers on the Kennedy, Eisenhower and Dan Ryan expressways.  

Minimum fines of $120 should also help drivers focus on the road instead of their phones. 

“Taking your eyes off the road for even a second can cost you more than just a fine,” ISP Director Hiram Grau said.

It’s a cost Wilson knows all too well. She thought about it while she was writhing in agony alongside the Dan Ryan expressway wondering whether she’d ever see her daughter again. 

“The thoughts that first entered my mind were of my daughter and of making it through the night to see her again, to hold her again and to see her grow up,” she said. 

The driver who hit Wilson was sentenced to six months in jail and was placed on two years probation.

Wilson hopes to go back on patrol duty soon. She’s undergone more than a year of rehabilitation in the hopes of one day accomplishing that goal.

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