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Our View: ‘Patricia’s Law’ is worthwhile

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Sometimes it takes a tragedy to find holes in state statutes, and Gov. Pat Quinn’s signing of legislation known as Patricia’s Law has helped repair one.

Patricia McNamara, 50, of Rockford, was killed in an October 2011 crash when a distracted driver ran a stop sign near Marengo.

McHenry County Sheriff’s Police ticketed driver Kenneth Englert, 55, of Rochelle, for failure to obey a stop sign. Englert told police he was distracted by a cell phone call.

A McHenry County judge sentenced Englert to a $551 fine and court costs and 120 days of court supervision. The offense doesn’t even show up on Englert’s driving record, because a successful court supervision wipes the offender’s record clean.

This wasn’t Englert’s first driving offense. He’d had prior speeding convictions. What Patricia’s Law does is take away the option of giving court supervision to an individual who is ticketed in a fatal crash.

It doesn’t make much sense that anyone could be at fault in a crash that results in loss of life and later not have any evidence of it on their driving record, particularly if it was not the person’s first offense.

The legislation had the support of Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, who agreed that such offenses should remain on a driver’s record.

Legislators sometimes can be too meddlesome when it comes to mandatory sentencing. But this law doesn’t impose a mandatory prison or jail term. It simply requires that if there is a conviction a judge will not have the option to grant the driver court supervision.

Drivers make mistakes, and accidents are accidents, although many can be prevented. But when a crash takes the life of another individual, it’s not in the best interest of Illinois residents to let the driver completely off the hook.

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