NORTH AURORA – Charlene Sligting-Yorke knows what can happen when a driver takes their eyes off the road ahead of them.
Her father, John Sligting, was killed in 2007 when a teen driver talking on a cell phone rolled through a stop sign and into the path of his motorcycle. He was 56.
"My dad was on his way home from work on a beautiful clear summer night enjoying his motorcycle when a young lady who was arguing with her mother on the phone rolled through a stop sign," Sligting-Yorke said, in speaking at a press conference at the North Aurora Police Department on April 16. "She had inattentional blindness. Inattentional blindness is when you are looking ahead, but your brain isn't processing what it's seeing."
Sligting-Yorke, traffic safety manager for AAA Chicago Motor Club, was at the news conference conveying her personal story about the dangers of distracted driving. On April 26, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, AAA Chicago Motor Club, the Kane County Sheriff's Office, the Kane County State's Attorney's Office and many other agencies will participate in the Kane County High Visibility Enforcement (HiVE) Campaign to help reduce crashes caused by distracted driving.
The campaign will take place as part of Illinois Distracted Driving Awareness Week. April 26 was Sligting's birthday.
As part of the campaign, there will be a large number of law enforcement officers in high collision areas during peak travel times in an attempt to improve safety.
"The aim of the HiVE campaign is to deter drivers through increased visibility and proactive law enforcement from participating in unsafe roadway activities, including distracted driving, and to improve overall driving behavior," North Aurora Police Chief David Fisher said.
Maple Park Police Chief Dean Stiegemeier, who is on the executive board of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, also spoke about the dangers of distracted driving.
"We did this together for the first time two years ago and it's clear from what we see on our road and highways every day, that we must continue to drive this message home, that it's illegal to text while driving," Stiegemeier said. "So our message is, please stop doing it. Don't be the guy when I'm looking in my rear view mirror who is looking in his lap, only occasionally looks up and you're still sitting there five seconds after the light turns green."
And Stiegemeier said police would rather that motorists follow the law rather than having to give them a ticket.
"But voluntary compliance is not happening to the level it should be," he said. "You need to recognize that with distracted driving, you are putting every other driver around you at risk. We need drivers to focus on the road, to put their phones down and wait before responding to texts. Make that change today and we'll all be safer."
Three Illinois state troopers have been struck and killed by vehicles in 2019.
"Distracted driving is the leading cause of all traffic crashes," said Lieutenant Colonel David Byrd, assistant deputy director of the Illinois State Police. "Approximately 10 people nationwide are killed daily from distracted driving crashes. Taking your eyes off the road for even a few seconds can end in a tragedy."
In two of the three deaths, the troopers were hit while responding to an incident on the roadway. Another trooper was killed by a driver going the wrong way.
"Please remember, if there is an emergency vehicle stopped with emergency lights activated on the roadway or alongside the road, slow down and if it is possible, move over," Byrd said.
After the news conference, Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon reiterated the importance of motorists being attentive when they are driving.
"We see in my office the impact of people driving distracted and driving intoxicated," he said. "I also firsthand see the impact of family members who have lost a daughter or son or a husband or wife. And that pain never goes away."