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Two More Teens Die …

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois

Two More Teens Die …

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
November 11, 2007

This morning’s Northwest Herald reports the deaths of two more McHenry County teenagers in a one-car crash. This accident occurred in Dunham Township near Pagels Road and Becks Road, in unincorporated McHenry County. This is west of Harvard and southwest of Chemung.

What “unincorporated McHenry County” means is that this is the jurisdiction of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department (MCSD) - as was the jurisdiction of the recent accident in which two Marian Central Catholic High School students died and two were seriously injured.

What we never seem to learn, after a serious auto accident, is what the circumstances of the accident were. We get the brief “accident occurred” report, but where is the follow-up? The problem is probably at least two-fold.

The sheriff’s dept. (or about any local police department) seldom issues a follow-up, and the local daily newspaper doesn’t seem to follow up because it’s “old news.” Perhaps if the newspaper reporters (and editors) did follow up and report more in-depth about possible contributing factors, then other drivers would have the opportunity to learn and parents would have a greater opportunity to get after their young drivers.

Any driver involved in a serious or fatal accident should probably keep her mouth shut; that's what her attorney will tell her. Talking about it will only get you in more deeply. When you cause an accident and someone else is hurt or dies, you are going to get sued. But the public has some right to know details.

Young drivers often think they are “bullet-proof.” What I mean by this is they think they are such great drivers that they can avoid any serious accident or, if they are involved in one, then they won’t be injured or will survive any serious injury.

What is needed is more in-your-face driving instruction. More visits to auto graveyards. More graphic pictures of car vs. train accidents. Car vs. big truck. Car vs. car. Car vs. bicycle. Car vs. pedestrian. Visits to hospitals. Visits to rehab centers.

In the case of the two Harvard youths in the Saturday morning accident, no ticket will be issued. The police initially don’t know who was driving, and both are dead.

However, in the case of the Marian Central students’ accident, the driver survived. Has she been ticketed yet? I haven’t seen anything in the paper about a ticket.

I believe the MCSD recently announced having received a grant to beef up traffic enforcement in McHenry County. Don’t they have two motorcycles assigned to traffic? Are they used only for parades? Sure, motorcycle patrol time is past for this year. But next year? How about no parades and put the deputies to work writing tickets.

We need more than seatbelt checks at stop signs. McHenry County needs aggressive traffic law enforcement against what the State Police call the Fatal Five. These are the five major causes of fatal accidents.

If you want more traffic enforcement and a reduction in deaths and serious injuries on McHenry County roads and in our towns, call your local law enforcement agency now. Speak to the Chief. Start at the top. Talking to a sergeant is nice, but the message needs to be heard at the top. At the top from the citizen, the resident, the tax-payer. Remember, the Chief tells the sergeant what to do. It’s not the other way around. The sergeant may want to put heat on speeders and reckless drivers, but it will never happen without the support and the direction from the top.

And, if it doesn’t happen, then contact the city manager, mayor and council persons. Back up any telephone calls with email or letters. Put it in writing. Keep your correspondence. Then follow up and see if anything happened. Did they provide increased enforcement. Ask for the proof. How many more tickets were written?

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