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Patricia's Law aims to stop fatality ‘loophole’

A McHenry County crash is being used to illustrate the need for new safety measures and a law aimed at ending leniency for crashes that involve the death of another.

“Patricia’s Law” was named for Patricia McNamara, who was killed in October 2011 after a distracted driver ran a stop sign at Harmony Road and Route 20. The crash in Coral Township killed the 50-year-old Rockford woman.

The driver, Kenneth G. Englert, 55, of Rochelle, got a traffic citation for failure to obey a stop sign. He told McHenry County Sheriff’s deputies that he was distracted by his cellphone, according to the crash report. He wasn’t texting, but had just made a phone call.

Englert was given 120 days of court supervision, a $551 fine, and ordered to take a four-hour traffic safety class.

By opting for court supervision on a traffic offense, it means that the conviction won’t appear on one’s driving record.

The new law prohibits a court from granting supervision to anyone charged as the result of a fatal accident if that driver has had a prior court supervision.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed Patricia’s Law last week. He cited McNamara’s crash as an example of a loophole he wanted to close. The measure had full support from Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.

“These new laws will make our roads safer for drivers and passengers by keeping more distracted and dangerous drivers from getting behind the wheel,” Quinn said at the signing.

McNamara’s family was in Chicago to watch the governor sign the bill.

“Nothing I do can ever bring back my beautiful daughter, Patricia, but I sincerely hope that by passing Patricia’s Law it will help keep unsafe drivers off the road so other families don’t have to go through what our family has,” said McNamara’s mother, Carol Speer.

State Rep. John D’Amico of Chicago and state Sen. Michael Hastings of Matteson were the chief sponsors of the bill, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2014. Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, and Sen. Pamela Althoff, R-McHenry, also are listed as sponsors.

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