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posted: 7/18/2011 3:00 AM

A needed champion in fight against distracted driving

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Daily Herald Editorial Board

Every cause needs a focal point and a champion. Cheryl Miller of Bolingbrook may just be that champion in the fight against distracted driving.

And the sign erected Friday in Naperville in memory of Miller's son, Adam, the focal point.

We have made our points several times about distracted driving. Talking on the cellphone, eating, drinking, shaving, putting on makeup, changing the radio station, yelling at the kids, goofing off with your friends -- all these distractions have led to near-misses, accidents and, as in the case of Adam Miller, death.

Adam was 5 in November 2008 when a distracted driver hit his father's car on Naperville/Plainfield Road in Naperville, just east of Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve. Now the site of that tragic accident is the home for a sign that reads, "Reckless Driving Costs Lives." Underneath, a second sign says, "In Memory of Adam Miller November 15, 2008."

A poignant reminder that was harder earned than should have been necessary. But Cheryl Miller championed the cause.

"Two years ago, I asked for a sign to show respect of Adam's life. I was denied. ... Adam was not recognized as a victim and I was outraged," she said at the sign unveiling ceremony Friday, as reported by Daily Herald staff writer Marie Wilson.

So, she went to work to convince the Illinois General Assembly to amend the Roadside Memorial Act to allow signs to be placed in memory of victims of distracted driving, not just victims of alcohol-related crashes. All these victims should be remembered and drivers should be thinking about them while traversing Illinois roadways. The fact that the law has changed shows that the danger of distracted driving is finally getting the attention it needs at the state and local level.

"We have a nice sign to remember Adam," said House Republican Leader Tom Cross. "But our work is not done." Added DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin: "The reality is we see distracted drivers every day."

As a champion of this cause, Miller also led efforts to change the state law that makes driver's license revocation the mandatory penalty for distracted drivers when their actions lead to a person's death. And she is working on more.

We need crusaders like Miller and her husband, John, because they remind us that our seemingly innocuous actions can have tragic consequences. They remind us that whatever time we think we are saving by multi-tasking in our vehicles can lead to time standing still for others. Adam Miller will forever be remembered as a 5-year-old whose potential will never be known.

"Don't be a distracted driver," Cheryl Miller said. "For the love of Adam."

Thank you, Cheryl, for sharing that love with the rest of us.