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Our View: Patricia's Law is worthwhile

Published: Friday, Aug. 16, 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 at Harmony Road and Route 20 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 cellphone call.

McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt 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 ticketed in a fatal crash.

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

The legislation, which included local sponsors Sen. Pamela Althoff, R-McHenry, and Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, also had the support of Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, who agreed that such offenses should stay on a driver’s record.

Legislators sometimes can be too meddlesome when it comes to mandatory sentencing. But we’re not talking about a mandatory prison or jail term here, just a conviction and removal of the court supervision option for judges.

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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