C.L. Driver Ticketed in Crash
April 22, 2008
Last Friday’s fatal accident on U.S. 20 near Lena, Illinois, has been covered by the Northwest Herald and the Chicago Tribune.
Three young women from Crystal Lake were driving to Champaign, and the driver missed the turn for southbound I-39 at Rockford. It’s not too tricky there, but the exit off U.S. 20 West to southbound I-39 comes up fairly quickly. It’s well-marked and there is a sweeping left curve on the bridge over U.S. 20. If you miss it, though, then you are westbound on a divided, limited-access, state highway.
The driver apparently continued almost 40 miles to Lena before decided to reverse course. How the accident happened is known to the driver and the surviving passenger. One of the young women, Shannon McCarty, died when the car in which she was riding pulled into the path of a truck.
The Northwest Herald reported that the car’s driver, Laura Okeeffe, attempted to make a U-turn on Highway 20 but did so in front of an eastbound tractor-trailer. The Chicago Tribune reported that Miss Okeeffe had turned onto Highway 73, made a u-turn and pulled out in front of the truck.
Miss Okeeffe was ticketed by the Illinois State Police for failure to yield at an intersection.
The driver of the tractor-trailer, Zdravko Iliev, of Mount Prospect, was ticketed by the Illinois State Police for unlawful operation of a commercial vehicle because he did not have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) issued by the State of Illinois and because he was unable to speak English. Although it is not a requirement in Illinois to be able to speak English to obtain a passenger-car driver’s license, it is to get an Illinois CDL.
In comments posted on www.nwherald.com, one person commented that Mr. Iliev does speak English (but apparently was unable to do so at the scene). I can imagine that a person for whom English is not his primary language could be in such a state of shock after an accident of this type that he might be able initially only to speak in his native tongue.
Is this a tragedy that could have been avoided? Perhaps this crash can serve as a starting point for conversations between parents and young drivers about the importance of anticipating unexpected driving conditions and of taking the necessary time to make safe adjustments to route changes. It’s a time to turn off radios, put down cell phones and iPods – even park safely off a main highway to figure out where you are and where you want to go.
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