Boy's memorial in Naperville warns of distracted driving
With a photo of her late son on a locket around her neck, Cheryl Miller spoke about what a blue-and-white roadside sign unveiled Friday in Naperville means to her.
The sign, which reads "Reckless Driving Costs Lives," was installed on Naperville/Plainfield Road just east of Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve in memory of Cheryl's son Adam, who died in November 2008 after a distracted driver hit his father's car at that location.
Miller said the sign means Adam lives on, even though he died at age 5 and never learned to ride a bike or wiggle a loose tooth.
The sign is something Miller had to fight for, pushing state legislators to amend earlier this year the Roadside Memorial Act, which allows signs to be placed in memory of victims of distracted driving, instead of only for victims of alcohol-related crashes.
"Two years ago, I asked for a sign to show respect of Adam's life," Miller said Friday. "I was denied. ... Adam was not recognized as a victim, and I was outraged."
But as about 60 family members, friends and politicians gathered for a ceremony uncovering the sign, many lauded Miller and her husband, John, for their persistence in advocating for victims of distracted driving accidents.
"We have some legislation, and that's good," Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross said about the Roadside Memorial Act. "We have a nice sign to remember Adam. But our work is not done."
Under the act, the unit of government with jurisdiction over the road -- in this case, DuPage County -- can post the signs according to its laws or ordinances. For Adam's sign, that means his family paid $175 to have the roadside memorial installed.
DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said the county will take future opportunities to install safe driving reminders like Adam's memorial sign.
"The reality is we see distracted drivers every day," Cronin said. "I think we've become a culture where we're very comfortable in our cars."
And comfortable drivers who can fiddle with GPS devices or talk on cellphones sometimes forget they're handling a large piece of machinery that can cause harm if they lose focus, said state Sen. Linda Holmes, an Aurora Democrat who worked with Miller on the Roadside Memorial Act.
Miller's efforts also led to changes in state law that make driver's license revocation the mandatory penalty for distracted drivers whose inattentive actions lead to a person's death.
Another bill Miller is pushing, to give a voice in the court system to families of motor vehicle accident victims, is on Gov. Pat Quinn's desk.
But when it comes down to it, Miller's mission is as simple as the sign now posted to memorialize her son -- just drive, without multi-tasking or succumbing to distractions.
"Don't be a distracted driver," she said. "For the love of Adam."