SPRINGFIELD– Governor Rod R. Blagojevich signed “Jeff’s Law” today, making it easier to convict speeding or impaired drivers who kill people in work or school zones. The bill is in response to the tragic death of Jeff Heath, 58, a five year IDOT employee killed on April 26, 2006 while directing traffic in a construction zone. Heath was struck and killed by a speeding vehicle trying to avoid an accident on Route 162 near Pontoon Beach. Heath left behind a wife, two children and six grandchildren.
“I know most Illinois drivers respect the hard work of roadway workers and the vulnerability of our children by slowing down in construction and school zones,” Governor Blagojevich said. “Unfortunately, there are a few drivers out there who don’t seem to understand just how dangerous reckless or drunk driving can be. If you kill a kid or construction worker because you are drunk or reckless, you should face the full extent of the law—this bill will help ensure that happens.”
Senate Bill 363, sponsored by State Senator Bill Haine (D-Alton) and State Representative Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville), allows the judge or jury to presume that a driver was acting recklessly if they were under the influence or driving with excessive speed and killed a construction worker or child in a safety zone. Currently, drivers who speed through construction zones face a minimum $375 speeding ticket, thanks to a bill the Governor signed into law in 2004.
This bill adds to Governor Blagojevich’s impressive record of keeping Illinois’ roads safe and protecting construction workers and children from reckless and drunk drivers.
- Earlier this year, Governor Blagojevich signed HB 508, which enhances penalties for reckless driving and the reckless homicide of a child and/or a school crossing guard while the crossing guard is on duty.
- Also this year, Governor Blagojevich signed a new law designed to reduce the number of drunk drivers on Illinois’ roads by requiring first time DUI offenders to have an ignition interlock device installed on their cars.
- In 2004, Governor Blagojevich signed legislation increasing the penalty for drivers who speed through construction zones to a minimum of $375. Motorists caught speeding a second time in a work zone within two years lose their driver’s license for 90 days.
- Established a Work Zone Safety Task Force in 2003, which made recommendations to make work zones safer for construction workers and drivers.
181 IDOT workers have been killed on Illinois’ roads since 1951.
“In recent years there have been many tragic and avoidable deaths where individuals killed in work and school zones have died as the result of driver impatience and recklessness,” said Sen. Haine. “If this legislation, which will allow reckless homicide to be more easily prosecuted under such circumstances, will deter even one careless driver, then justice is being served.”
“Family members of construction workers should not have to worry when their loved one goes to work”, said Rep. Hoffman. “We have seen too many terrible tragedies of people being seriously injured and killed in construction zones. I am hopeful that this bill will help alleviate accidents in construction zones and provide some piece of mind to the families of construction workers who work on our roads,” added Hoffman.
Reckless homicide while operating a vehicle is a Class 3 Felony and carries a punishment of 2-5 years in prison. The reckless homicide of a construction worker in a safety zone is a Class 2 Felony and carries a prison sentence of 3-14 years. The reckless homicide of two or more construction workers in a safety zone is a Class 2 Felony and carries a prison sentence of 6 to 28 years. Killing someone while under the influence carries a prison sentence of 3-14 years.
SB 363 becomes effective June 1, 2008.