Elburn implementing hefty fines for distracted driving

Drivers passing through Elburn soon may face a significant fine if they're caught using their cellphones.

Village board members last week unanimously to approved a distracted driving ordinance that will impose fines of up to $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense and $750 for a third offense.

Although there is a state statute covering distracted drivers, Village President Jeff Walter and other officials believe the fines are not significant enough to get people's attention. Hansen

Trustee Chris Hansen, the president of the DuKane chapter of the motorcyclist rights group ABATE, has expressed concern over the recent frequency of crashes resulting in fatalities, especially involving motorcycles.

"We've already got a reputation for speeding (enforcement)," Hansen said. "I'm OK with a reputation for when you drive through our town, you put that phone down."

Village officials had been exploring the option of creating a local ordinance that would carry a more punitive fine than the state statute, which has a $75 fine for the first offense, $100 for the second offense, $125 for the third offense and $150 for the fourth offense.

Their initial recommendation for a significant fine was $750 or even $1,000.

After much discussion over the past several months among village staff and members of the village board, advice from village attorney Bill Thomas, feedback from another attorney who handles Elburn's prosecutions for traffic cases, an opinion from the chief judge of the 16th Judicial Circuit in Kane County and input from Elburn police officers who will be asked to implement the ordinance, officials settled on Hansen said he is satisfied with the ordinance.

"It's better than the state's," he said. "It will still have an impact."

"All of the parties worked well together," Walter added. "It got toned down a bit. It will be a good thing for the village."

If the infraction takes place in a school zone, the action will be considered an aggravated offense and have a fine of $500 for the first offense and $750 for the second and subsequent offenses.

Hansen said a village trustee from Maple Park has reached out to him regarding the possibility of a similar ordinance in their village.

"We're definitely taking the lead in the state," Walter said.

The final version of the ordinance added a payment of $130 for court costs if a fine is contested in court.

Elburn Police Chief Nick Sikora said he will be giving his officers the discretion of writing citations through the local ordinance or going through the state statute, depending on the situation.

"I would want to leave it to the officer to choose," Sikora said.

Walter said he agrees.

"It would be another tool in their bag," he said, adding that the new ordinance could be implemented as early as the first week of December.

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