Bill inspired by Mount Prospect crosswalk death sails through House
Legislation toughening penalties for drivers who hit pedestrians at crosswalks cleared the Illinois House and moved to the Senate.
The legislation was inspired by the death of Mount Prospect cyclist Joni Beaudry. She died June 9, after being hit by an SUV driver at a Mount Prospect crosswalk with a rectangular rapid-flashing beacon. The driver paid $364 in fines and court costs.
State Rep. David Harris, an Arlington Heights Republican, sponsored the bill, which passed the House with a 105-3 vote Wednesday.
The policy would require a fine of up to $1,500 or jail time of up to 30 days for a driver who fails to yield to a pedestrian at a crosswalk with an activated rectangular rapid-flashing beacon.
If a pedestrian is killed or seriously injured, the offense would become a felony with a penalty of three to seven years in prison.
Beaudry's husband, Eric Jakubowski, and others in the community said the relatively new crosswalks that feature yellow flashing lights give pedestrians a false sense of security.
Harris witnessed a near miss at the crossing at Central Road and Melas Park and thinks the flashing beacons are ineffective to the point of being dangerous because they confuse drivers.
"I believe my colleagues recognized the seriousness of drivers disregarding crosswalks marked with rectangular rapid-flashing beacons and responded with a large vote of support," Harris said Thursday.
The proposal now goes to the Senate.
Beaudry, 55, was the mother of five college-age and teenage children.
Mount Prospect police cited Hanna Burzynska, 56, of Elk Grove Village with failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk and failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident. That's insufficient, Harris said.
Lawmakers opposing the measure included Allen Skillicorn of East Dundee and Rita Mayfield of Waukegan.
"I think the penalty is already sufficient," said Skillicorn, a Republican. "Anything we do in Springfield that is not related to the budget, spending and revenue is fluff," he added, referring to the state's budget impasse.
Mount Prospect and the Illinois Department of Transportation collaborated to install the flashing beacon in hopes of improving safety at the 35 mph, four-lane street that sees about 21,000 to 23,000 vehicles a day.
Illinois law states that vehicles must stop for pedestrians at a crosswalk.