Bicycle Diaries: Matt's Law

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Matt's Law

We thought Matt would change
the world somehow.

We just didn’t know how he would.

Here's an update on Matt Wilhelm, a biker who was killed back in November. Jennifer Stark, the 19-year-old cager who killed him, pled guilty to the charge of improper lane usage while trying to download ring-tones to her cell phone. The Champaign County judge gave her the maximum sentence: six months of conditional discharge, a form of probation without reporting to an officer, a $1,000 fine, and traffic safety school.

If you think the legal system has utterly failed here, you're not alone. Judge Richard Klaus stated, I can only apply the law I have in front of me, not as I wish it would be. Even State's Attorney Julia Rietz, who prosecuted the case, believed the sentence insufficient. She could not charge Stark with a more serious offence than improper lane usage because Illinois is one of fifteen states that does not have a Negligent Vehicular Homicide law. As she said in court,
This is a tragic case and one which has demonstrated to us there are many things we can't adequately resolve in this building, unfortunately. The law doesn't give us an adequate remedy to address the loss to the Wilhelms and society.
In repsonse, Chuck & Gloria Wilhelm, Matt's parents, as well as his friends and other relatives have established the Matt's Law Coalition to get a tougher law on the books. Check out its site.
Matt’s Law is about 25-year-old Matt Wilhelm, a recent University of Illinois graduate and avid biker who was killed by a distracted driver in September 2006. The teenage driver completely left the roadway while downloading cell phone ring tones, hitting Matt with the driver side of her car.

Matt’s bicycle helmet, which his parents said he wore religiously, did not save him from the traumatic brain injuries that claimed his life days later.

When Matt’s parents spoke with the state trooper who handled the collision, he said, “Your son did everything right. He did nothing wrong.”

Because Illinois does not have a Negligent Vehicular Homicide law similar to 35 other states, the driver was only charged with improper lane usage, a petty offense with a maximum fine of $1,000.

Illinois needs a new law NOW! We also need more education in schools to reduce distracted driving. Every day, 4,300 crashes are caused by driving distractions in the U.S.

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Blogger iconoclasst said...

Man, that's really a shame.

I think it might be a good idea in the meantime to work on getting a ban on cellphone usage while driving (assuming no such law applies in this case). Not going to stop all these cyborgs from amusing themselves or "staying connected" (to what?) while motoring, but it may cut down on the frequency of such situations.

8/12/06 09:10  

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