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Code 18 - what is it?

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois

Code 18 - what is it?

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
August 13, 2012


On the Illinois Traffic Crash Report is a required item for completion labeled "Contributory Cause(s)". There is a line for the Primary Cause, and there is a line for the Secondary Cause.

There is a whole list of choices for the deputy who is completing the report of a crash.

The idea is that the deputy who investigates a crash then makes an informed conclusion of the cause and reports it. This aids in the creation of accurate reports by IDOT for crashes statewide, and no doubt those reports then get compiled for Federal reports.

In the July 15 crash at 11:20AM on a Sunday involving Patrol Cmdr. John Miller of the McHenry County Sheriff's Department in his take-home squad car, Sgt. Schmitt chose Code 18 for the primary cause of the crash. What is Code 18?

Code 18, according to the IDOT code legend, is "Unable to Determine".

Do you think maybe Sgt. Schmitt didn't attend any traffic crash investigation schools or training? Could the fact that Sgt. Schmitt is one of Cmdr. Miller's subordinates have anything to do with the choice of an indefinite code? Could friendship have been a factor?

Did Sgt. Schmitt have any reason to suspect whether the driver, Cmdr. Miller, was utilizing any electronic device at the time of the crash? Was Miller in a hurry? Was he upset about anything? Didn't Sgt. Schmitt wonder why Cmdr. Miller took his eyes off the road long enough for the vehicle to run off the roadway and strike a mailbox in front of a residence?

A law-enforcement officer in another state wrote to me recently and said, "I'm no different than the other guy and I should be treated the same way as anyone else."

Well, "anyone else" would have gotten a ticket for Improper Lane Usage. Sgt. Schmitt could have said, "Sorry, sir (or John), but I'm going to have to write you a ticket", but he didn't. Does this discretion put every ticket he writes in jeopardy?

Will the sharp defense lawyers start asking deputies whether it is the policy at MCSD to give fellow deputies a pass on tickets?

Why didn't Sgt. Schmitt complete the Crash Report electronically on his in-car computer, instead of handwriting it? Had he prepared the Report electronically, to whom would it have gone when he hit Send? It would have gone to his lieutenant for review. Would Sgt. Schmitt have been dragged over the coals for the Code 18 and for the bare-bones, 21-word Narrative that failed to describe what really happened?

The squad vehicle didn't run off the road by itself. Driver error was the cause. What was the error? If an electronic device was in use, isn't there a law about that?

Who will pay for the damage to the patrol SUV in this off-duty, personal-use crash? If it was caused by carelessness, should the taxpayers have to take it on the chin?



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