RIVERSIDE, IL — Governor Bruce Rauner recently signed House Bill 4554, which was drafted by Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel and Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. After an off-duty Chicago Ridge police officer Steven Smith was killed by a drunk driver driving the wrong way in 2015, Weitzel brought his idea to State Rep. Michael Zalewski and asked assistance in drafting legislation, the chief said.
The bill was first introduced a year and a half ago, and it failed. Zalewski and Weitzel reintroduced the legislation and this time it passed in the House and the Senate and was signed by the governor on Aug. 24. The bill makes driving the wrong way down a one-way street an aggravating factor in a DUI case, Weitzel said.
Currently, a judge cannot take wrong-way driving into consideration during the sentencing, according to Weitzel. However, this new legislation allows judges to add additional prison time for individuals convicted of aggravated felony DUI, where wrong-way driving was involved.
Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel said that he has repeatedly heard of wrong-way driving
crashes in Illinois where victims were killed or severely maimed and said the impetus for this legislation
came from MADD. Weitzel worked with their executive director Sam Canzoneri to get this bill passed.
Riverside Chief Thomas Weitzel said this is the first such wrong-way driving DUI legislation in the nation.
"My sole purpose in proposing this legislation was to remove impaired drivers from the roadway who are convicted of felony DUI for long periods of time," Weitzel said in a release. "Additionally, I wanted to bring some comfort and resolve to the pain that Ms. Smith has been suffering since her son was brutally murdered in this wrong-way drunk driving crash. I want the residents of Illinois to know these are drunk driving crashes, they are not accidents – they are purposeful acts and should be treated as such when individuals are convicted in a court of law."
Photo provided by Riverside Police Department.
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September 13, 2018 at 07:45AM