CHICAGO (CBS) — Kill someone with your car, and get a real punishment — that’s the idea behind new proposed legislation in Illinois that could take court supervision off the table in crashes that result in fatalities.
The push for tougher punishment for those drivers is the result of a CBS 2 Investigation.
CBS 2’s Pam Zekman has reported on deadly crashes that led to slaps on the wrist for the drivers responsible.
Her stories prompted Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White’s office to push for legislation that would give judges authority to hand down stricter punishments.
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Walter Speer – whose daughter Patricia McNamara was killed last September when another driver rammed into her car in McHenry County – testified Tuesday at a hearing of the Secretary of State’s traffic safety advisory committee.
“I plead with you to legislate new and stronger laws now, because people’s lives depend on it,” he said.
McNamara was killed by a distracted driver, who rammed into her car after blowing a stop sign.
The driver, Kenneth Englert, was fined and sentenced to court supervision, which means no conviction will appear on his record.
“I mean, my God, my daughter died. I was appalled. I stood up. I said, ‘This is justice? This is our judicial system?’ I said ‘You failed my daughter.’ That’s how I feel,” her mother Carol Speer said after Tuesday’s traffic safety hearing.
In a similar case, 86-year-old Coral Kier died after she was hit by a cabd river as she crossed the street in the East Lakeview neighborhood in August 2011.
The cab driver, Mohammed Ahmed, was found guilty of failure to yield to a pedestrian, but only sentenced to court supervision and fined $345.
On Tuesday, an attorney representing Kier’s family read a statement on their behalf at the traffic safety hearing.
“Our hope is that there will be a law which will prevent these slap on the wrist fines to ever occur again,” Craig Squillace said.
The committee voted to present proposed legislation to lawmakers, which would prohibit judges from granting court supervision in fatal crashes.
The vote came despite opposition from the Illinois State Bar Association.
“We think it’s a bad idea to reduce supervision to no discretion on the part of the judge,” said Stephen Komie, a member of the ISBA Board of Governors. “There are times when these tragedies occur with nobody’s fault at all.”
But White said, “The bottom line is we want the roads of Illinois to be the safest ever.”
Walter Speer said, “I think this is going to help so many other people; that it’s going to save lives.”
His wife, Carol said, “It makes me feel like my daughter’s voice has been heard.”
The proposal is likely to face some strong opposition in Springfield, but there is precedent for limiting sentences of court supervision – for example, drivers convicted of driving more than 40 miles an hour over the speed limit.