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Attorney: Distracted driving is not illegal

Says Hunt’s actions occur on roadways every day

NAPERVILLE – As of now, distracted driving is not against the law, says Lora L. Hunt’s attorney, Ragan Freitag.

“I know there’s been some discussion about that,” Freitag said Thursday. “I believe something is in the works right now. I think it would be a great idea, but (to form an opinion), I’d have to read the whole details of the bill.”

Hunt, 48, of Goose Lake Township, was cited with failure to reduce speed after her auto rear-ended motorcyclist Anita S. Zaffke, 56, of Lake Zurich, Saturday on U.S. 12 in Wauconda.

Zaffke was killed in the accident. The Lake County Sheriff’s Department report notes Hunt told deputies she was painting her fingernails at the time and did not see the motorcycle stopped at the traffic signal with Old McHenry Road.

Some jurisdictions have banned activities like talking on a cell phone while driving. Freitag believes many other jurisdictions are moving toward similar bans.

The next step, then, is a ban on text messaging while operating a vehicle.

“But, I don’t know how they can outlaw every possible little thing, or even like yelling at your children or eating in the car. There’s a million things you can do in a vehicle – a million things you can do while sitting down,” Freitag said.

“Then there’s the whole problem of before you can cite someone for doing these things, you have to observe them at it. It’s going to be a long process.”

Despite all the area and national media attention the case has gained, including an editorial earlier this week in the Chicago Tribune, Freitag does not believe the incident has been blown out of proportion.

“Not really,” she said. “There is a problem today with distracted driving. People are talking on their cell phones, texting, applying makeup, yelling at their kids, eating in the car.

“I do understand why this wasn’t brought up before - why it’s being brought up now as a huge issue. This stuff happens all the time, and it’s very sad and very unfortunate.”

Freitag said her client is completely aware of that, which is probably why the incident is being blown up.

“I do know my client is really upset,” Freitag said. “She’s really distraught right now. Her thoughts and prayers are going out to the family.”

The media is making a big issue of the incident, the attorney noted.

“The media is the only one making a bigger deal of this right now. This is a big deal – don’t get me wrong. Right now, there aren’t any further charges,” Freitag said.

“I’m definitely not going to say the Lake County state’s attorney is making a bigger deal out of this, or making (Hunt) an example. They’re going to do what they need to do, and I’m going to represent (Hunt) the best I can.”

Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Waller did not return phone requests for comment.

However, the Chicago Tribune editorial noted a month could go by before other possible charges are decided. Some of the wait is for blood and urine test results, and the accident reconstruction report, the editorial added.

A registered nurse since 1995 and the mother of five children, Hunt was returning from her daughter’s home in Delavan, Wis., at the time of the incident.

“Visiting her daughter and taking care of her granddaughter. She was taking her daughter’s baby crib to her other daughter in DesPlaines, who is about to have (Hunt’s) seventh grandchild,” Freitag said.

“That’s what she was doing. She was just visiting her daughters and grandkids.”

Freitag understands Zaffke’s family is hurting.

“And so is my client, as well,” Freitag pointed out. “She’s extremely, extremely upset about what has happened.”

People have to realize, however, that every day people are talking on the phone, texting, eating and such while driving, she said.

“These are things we do every day, and people have to be aware of that,” Freitag said. “These are things that happen every day. People need to remember that – it happens every day.”

Hunt is to appear in Lake County Court at 9 a.m. Monday, June 8, on the traffic ticket. Freitag will represent her in court.

“I assume she’ll be with me,” said her attorney.

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