Out of one family’s tragic loss comes new state legislation for motorists. After losing their child in a car accident, Cheryl and John Miller of Bolingbrook helped pass new laws for distracted driving.
In 2008, a driver was reaching for a fallen cigar and didn’t see the family’s vehicle stopped in front of him. He crashed into their vehicle going 55 mph along Naper-Plainfield Road in Naperville. John Miller suffered a broken nose and 5-year-old Adam was killed. The driver walked away with nothing more than a minor traffic ticket.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), inattentive motorists were responsible for more than 300,000 similar deaths in 2009.
That’s ten times the number of DUI-caused fatalities that same year.
Following the accident, Cheryl Miller took it upon herself to work with state legislatures to spread awareness of distracted driving and to make inattentive drivers more legally accountable for their actions.
The first law they helped pass allows families of distracted driving victims to place memorial signs next to roads.
This previously was only allowed for victims of drunk driving accidents. The Millers recently revealed their roadside sign at the spot where Adam was killed on the day after what would’ve been his 8th birthday.
“The sign is here because Adam was not recognized as a victim by the laws that govern and I was outraged,” said Cheryl.
“The sign is here because the laws left us unable to speak for Adam in court and I was frustrated.”
Other state laws that recently passed through the Illinois General Assembly include the mandatory removal of a person’s driver’s license or permit if a distracted driver kills someone. Legislatures also gave victims and their families a voice in court, allowing them to speak about the accident. This is the only bill still awaiting the governor’s final signature.
Dupage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin helped the Miller family in spreading awareness of distracted driving. He says distracted driving is more commonplace than drunk driving and potentially just as lethal.
“We’ve all gotten far too comfortable in our vehicles. You forget that you’re operating something that could be considering a loaded weapon and you’re hurling down the road at high speeds and you could kill or seriously injure somebody,” said Cronin.
And that’s something motorists often admit to forgetting at times when hitting the road.
“There’s certainly a lot more on the road physically now and then of course a lot more in the minds of people, concerns about jobs and others things,” said Maricor Wall, Chicago resident.
“When I see that the phone rings or I get that text, what am I doing? I tend to look down at the phone,” said Yorkville resident, Steve Wise.
But the Millers suggest thinking twice about talking on the phone, adjusting the radio, or reaching for a cigar when you’re driving.
“Everyone on the road is a child to somebody,” said Cheryl. “Don’t be a distracted driver.”
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