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Bolingbrook family successfully advocates for stronger consequences for distracted drivers

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013 3:58 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:52 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Bill Ackerman - backerman@shawmedia.com)
Charlene Sligting (from left) of Elgin tells how she lost her father in a distracted driving accident, while John, Eli and Cheryl Miller of Bolingbrook, who lost their 5-year-old son and brother, Adam, in a distracted driving accident, listen. Community members gathered at Builta School, where Adam was a student, on Aug. 20 to recognize enactment of the Roadside Memorial Act. Bill Ackerman - backerman@shawmedia.com
Caption
(Bill Ackerman - backerman@shawmedia.com)
Adam Miller's cousin, Anna Miller of Bolingbrook, hangs an ornament on a tree dedicated to Adam. Her uncle and aunt, John and Cheryl Miller of Bolingbrook, lost their 5-year-old son Adam in 2008 after he was killed in a distracted driver. Community members gathered at Builta School, where Adam was a student, on Aug. 20 to recognize enactment of the Roadside Memorial Act. Bill Ackerman - backerman@shawmedia.com

BOLINGBROOK – Residents and elected officials gathered at Bolingbrook’s Builta Elementary School Aug. 20, preaching a simple, thought-provoking message: distracted driving costs lives.

State Rep. Natalie Manley (D-Joliet) emceed the press conference as fellow legislators and families torn apart by Distracted driving shed light on new regulations regarding future implications of wreckless and distracted driving.

Manley detailed Illinois House Bill 2585, an act imposing stricter penalties for distracted driving accidents, and House Bill 1345, which memorializes the victims of distracted driving fatalities with roadside signs.

“We must come together to do all we can to increase road safety and prevent tragedies,” Manley said. “I am pleased to say that the passing of Adam’s Law allows families of loved ones lost in a distracted or reckless driving accident to purchase an official state roadside memorial marker for a safe commemoration, while also creating awareness about the dangers of distracted and reckless driving.”

House Bill 1345, or Adam’s Law, is named after Adam Miller, a former Builta Elementary School student and 5-year-old son of Bolingbrook residents John and Cheryl Miller.

In 2008, Adam and his father, John were sitting in their car after fixing a tire on the side of Plainfield-Naperville Road. A driver, distracted because he had dropped a cigar, then slammed into the back of Miller’s vehicle, sending John Miller to a hospital and killing Adam.

The driver was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and was only given a ticket.

Speaking outside of the school where her son attended kindergarten and in front of a tree planted to memorialize the boy, Cheryl Miller spoke about her journey from loss and frustration to advocacy and legislation.

“I knew I needed to honor his life,” Cheryl Miller said. “I wanted to shout from the rooftops to all those texting, dialing, multitasking in their cars. There will be no new memories for me and my son, but I’m proud to have turned emotion into positive action.”

Now, with two bills sponsored by Manley and passed on both House and Senate floors, the Millers can look toward the future and other effective ways to stop distracted driving.

“Adam’s Law is for the families and the many drivers still unaware of the dangers of distracted driving,” Cheryl Miller said. “Our loved ones must be remembered, and the reason they were taken from us must never be forgotten.”

Through her advocacy efforts to institute Adam’s Law, Cheryl Miller met several local residents who sympathized with her pain, grief, anger and need for action.

Similar to the Millers, Elgin residents Carol and Walter Speer lost their daughter Patricia McNamara on Sept. 30, 2011, after a driver talking on a cellphone ran a stop sign in McHenry County and crashed into the driver’s side of Patricia’s car, killing her instantly.

The driver, who had three previous speeding tickets, pleaded guilty to failure to obey a stop sign, and was fined and sentenced to court supervision. A conviction did appear on his record, according to Carol and Walter Speer.

“That just didn’t sit well with me,” Carol Speer said. “I was devastated and angry. I said to my husband, ‘We are going to fight this.’”

They, too, channeled their emotions, telling their story to state representatives, senators and local news outlets. On Aug. 5, Patricia’s Law, Illinois House Bill 1010, was passed and now prohibits a judge from giving court supervision for offenses that caused the death of another person.

The Speers say that Cheryl Miller was not only instrumental in helping their legislative efforts, but also a good friend when they were in need.

“Cheryl gave me the tools to act, she listened to us,” Cheryl Speers. “She reached out to our family and was truly a good friend when we needed it most. I have no doubts that Adam’s Law and these signs will save lives going forward.”

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