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Distracted driving: New Illinois bill seeks Class 2 felony charge in fatal car accidents

| Apr 10, 2015 | Motor Vehicle Accident

A 17-year-old girl recently killed a cyclist when the van she was driving swerved and struck the 45-year-old man. The Chicago Daily Herald reports that the teen was texting as the accident occurred. The man’s injuries were severe, but he did not pass away until over three weeks following the accident. Although the accident resulted in a death, the driver has only been charged with one felony count of aggravated use of an electronic device that resulted in death. Prosecutors determined that no other factor besides the distraction of an electronic device played a part in the crash. Due to the nature of the accident, the family has stated that they would favor a more severe reckless homicide charge.

A Chicago wrongful death lawyer knows that cases like these are common throughout Chicago and the rest of the U.S. When distracted driving results in a fatality, motorists often come away with little more than fines and probation.  The Daily Reporter reports that in an effort to combat this issue, Illinois state legislatures are calling for drivers to receive the same penalties that drunk drivers face when they cause a fatality while illegally using a cell phone while behind the wheel.

About the proposed law

Under the proposed law, anyone who is convicted of killing another person through the aggravated use of an electronic communication device while driving would be guilty of committing a Class 2 felony. Those convicted of this felony class can receive anywhere from three to 14 years in prison, fines up to $25,000 and restitution payments. Current laws classify the crime as a Class 4 felony, which is punishable by one to three years in prison.

In addition to the harsher sentencing, distracted drivers who receive probation or conditional discharge would be required to serve at least 480 hours of community service along with any other criminal or administrative sanctions.

A necessary change

Although many families may believe probation and community service are still not enough to compensate for the loss of a life, a Chicago wrongful death lawyer understands that these stiffer penalties are a step in the right direction towards prevention. Rep. Robert Marwick, who sponsored the bill, states that more severe punishment for these negligent crimes are the best avenue for reducing their rates and keeping motorists and pedestrians safe.

Until that happens, deaths will continue to occur. According to reports by the American Automobile Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety, 16 percent of all fatal crashes are due at least in part to driver distraction. As many as 5,000 people die each year in these preventable fatal accidents.

Those who have lost loved ones in accidents caused by distracted drivers should turn to a Chicago wrongful death lawyer. With their help, those who are left behind can find closure and financial stability for the future.