(MCT) Gov. Pat Quinn signed three road safety bills into law Monday, including two that aim to make it tougher for some teenage drivers to earn a license.
The first, dubbed "Patricia's Law," would prohibit judges from granting supervision to anyone charged in a fatal accident if they have a prior conviction or were previously on court supervision for another serious traffic violation. The measure is named after Patricia McNamara, of Rockford, who was killed in a crash by a distracted driver who received a fine and court supervision in the case.
The change is aimed at stopping a situation in which drivers can maintain a record free of convictions if they receive and successfully complete court supervision, which often includes safety classes and fines. The other driver in the McNamara case had prior speeding convictions, officials said.
"That's the wrong way to approach the way we deal with individuals who have killed someone on our roads," said Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, whose office is in charge of issuing licenses. The measure goes into effect Jan. 1.
McNamara's family said it hopes the measure will keep unsafe drivers off the road and prevent other families from going through a similar tragedy.
"There isn't a day goes by that I wake up in the morning and I don't miss her," said Carol Speer, McNamara's mother.
The second law would allow White's office to deny a driver's license or permit to anyone 18 or younger who has unresolved traffic tickets. That measure was inspired by Kelsey Little, a Minooka teen who was walking back from getting ice cream with friends when she was hit and seriously injured by a teen driver who was operating a vehicle with a learner's permit.
Just three days after the accident, officials said, the driver was able to apply for and receive a full driver's license under what Quinn described as a "loophole" in state law. The law takes effect immediately.
"Kelsey's Law will enable the state to act appropriately in keeping our roads and our children safer," said Nancy Deckelman, Kelsey's mother. "It's the kind of common-sense legislation that will make people safer, our laws fairer and my family a little happier knowing that for everything Kelsey's been through, that something finally good will come of it."
According to White's office, both cases appear to be isolated incidents. Response largely was driven by a public outcry and news reports that highlighted the flaws in the system.
The final measure Quinn signed will require anyone ages 18 to 21 who did not take a driver's education course in high school to complete an adult driver's education course before he or she could receive a driver's license. That law takes effect July 1.
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