State Law Provides Illinois DUI Memorial Signs
By: Mary Ann Pekara
Any time a person drinks and drives, they risk ending not only their own lives, but the lives of innocent people.
In some cases, a DUI arrest almost certainly saves the offender's life by intervening before a disaster happens.
No one ever intends to get behind the wheel and kill someone, but unfortunately it happens all too often. We can all agree that drinking and driving is an extremely bad decision to make.
In Illinois, Joel Mains recently led a news conference in cooperation with Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown, the Illinois Department of Transportation, and the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists to unveil a new type of sign that they hope may prevent Illinois DUI fatalities.
Mains' 17-year-old stepdaughter, Caitlin Weese, was on her way home and struck head-on by a drunken driver on May 22, 2003. She passed away two days later from the injuries she sustained in the crash.
Under a new Illinois DUI law, memorial signs for those killed in drunken driving accidents may be requested by the victims' families. A sign with Caitlin's name and the date of the accident that took her life was the first to be requested under "Tina's Law." The law is named for Tina Ball, a construction worker with seven children who was killed by a drunken driver while working on I-57 during September 2003.
Tina's Law went into effect in January 2008 and will enable signs to honor those killed in DUI accidents to be placed at the crash sites on state highways.
Caitlin's sign was erected on October 22, 2008 and carries the simple but monumentally important message, "Please Don't Drink and Drive" above her name. It replaced the makeshift memorial consisting of crosses and flowers that had been placed at the crash site.
Cassandra Hardy, Caitlin's older sister, told the Northwest Herald that when people passed by the crosses and flowers on the roadside they knew that something had happened there, but it wasn't evident what it was. She said that she hopes that the sign letting people know that the death was a result of a drunk driver serves as a reminder and raises awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving.
The family members of fatal DUI crash victims can contact the Illinois Department of Transportation to request a memorial sign. The signs will remain in place for seven years and IDOT officials say that if requested, the sign can remain for an additional seven years after the time expires.
To be eligible for a memorial sign, the DUI fatality must have happened after January 1, 1990. If the crash did not occur on a state roadway, the victims' family members must seek a sign from the county government or local municipality.
Tina's Law unanimously passed the Illinois Legislature with absolutely no resistance.
Legislators may not be done discussing Illinois DUI penalties just yet.
There is currently a bill in the Illinois Senate Rules Committee that proposes adding a $50 fine to drivers who are convicted of DUI or receive court supervision for DUI charges. This fine would provide funding for the DUI crash memorial signs and other DUI prevention efforts.