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White to lobby for legislation impacting would-be drivers

Spokesman: Ability to ask teens about pending citations sought in wake of 2011 Minooka accident

Published: Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012 5:00 a.m. CST

A 2011 crash in Grundy County that seriously injured a teenage girl could inspire new legislation that would help prevent teens with pending traffic cases from obtaining driver’s licenses when they turn 16.

Dave Druker, spokesman for Secretary of State Jesse White, said White plans to lobby during the state legislature’s spring session in January on behalf of legislation that would keep new teen drivers with ongoing traffic cases off the road.

“We are going to put together some legislation that would allow us on the driver’s license application to ask the young person if they had any tickets against their driver’s record,” he said.

“While we’re doing that, we would need legislation to define if someone lied on that, they’d be committing fraud.”

He said the change would prevent teenagers with pending traffic cases from obtaining a license, and also give a way to invalidate licenses for teenagers who say they have a clean record, but are later found to have been untruthful.

The crash that is the impetus for the legislation took place the evening of Oct. 16, 2011, in the 8000 block of McEvilly Road in Minooka, when part of pickup driven by a Channahon teenager struck a pedestrian, a teenage girl walking on the road’s shoulder with friends to buy ice cream, Minooka Police Department records show.

As police checked the driver’s ID, they found the 15-year-old was driving on a learner’s permit without a licensed adult as a passenger. He was cited for failure to reduce speed and operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license, and his mother was also cited for permitting an unauthorized person to operate a motor vehicle. Both cases are pending in the Grundy County Circuit Court.

Three days after the crash, the teen proceeded to obtain his first driver’s license and it remains valid now despite efforts within Grundy County to have the license suspended or revoked.

Grundy County State’s Attorney John Bates said about two months after the crash, his office contacted the Secretary of State’s office to see if something could be done to keep the teen off the road as the case was pending. The answer they ultimately received, Bates said, was that the Secretary of State’s office could not act to suspend or revoke the license.

“They ultimately determined they needed some legislative support to give authority to suspending (the defendant’s) license,” he said.

Bates said he’s been in contact regarding the case with Will County State’s Attorney, which is the county where the teenage driver resides, and said the two are supportive of any legislation that would help prevent this from occurring again.

“Both Jim Glasgow and myself are in support of any legislation that would give the Secretary of State the authority to suspend or revoke these licenses,” he said.

Druker said the case was recently brought to White’s attention by a Chicago TV station. When it came to the teen applying for a license and receiving one three days after the crash, Druker said the department had no record on file of the teen’s ongoing case at the time. He said the Secretary of State’s office, by law, was limited in how they could respond after the license was approved.

“We’re record keepers,” he said. “We don’t have authority to invalidate or revoke an individual license — we need to have a court ruling to do that.”

Druker said the hope with the legislation is to prevent young drivers in similar situations from being on Illinois roadways as their cases are being worked out.

“Secretary White is making every effort to make the roads as safe as possible and we think this legislation would be a positive step in that direction,” he said.

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