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Merry Ticketmas from MCSD

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois

Merry Ticketmas from MCSD

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
December 5, 2009

Forty-three seatbelt violations were ticketed by deputies of the McHenry County Sheriff's Department between November 13 and November 29. That ought to create warm fuzzies for lots of McHenry County drivers. Like, for 43 of them.

What does a seatbelt ticket cost these days? $50.00? $75.00? And that's if you don't go to court and fight it. Losing in court will probably cost you another $150-200, thanks to the County Board and the State Legislators.

Six tickets for driving without insurance, one ticket for a child "restraint" violation (I can remember one day when I had to restrain my kid from jumping out of the car!), and one "no valid" (driver's license) ticket.

And, get this, 17 warnings. In 25% of the presumed total number of stops (67), the driver avoided a ticket and fine. Why?

Now, why would any warnings be issued during a "special, grant-funded enforcement" campaign? And who got the warnings?

Giving any warnings during a crackdown (errr, campaign) is a big mistake. There is too much wiggle room for favors to favored groups of drivers. Supervisors, and supervisors of supervisors, should very carefully examine all warnings for the possible improper use of discretion.

Furthermore, how much manpower was utilized in the grant program (and how large was the grant???) that produced only 50 tickets in two weeks? One patrol officer, unburdened by other calls, ought to be able to write 50 tickets in two weeks! And most of those could be for serious traffic violations like speeding, tailgating, failing to stop at stop signs, red light violations. Even making stops for various lights out would likely find drivers with no insurance or no driver's license. A taillight or license plate out? Give a warning, if everything else is in order.

By now, most know my feelings about primary enforcement of seatbelt violations. If education of drivers is the goal, put an electronic sign on the shoulder reading, "Buckle up - now!" How much more pressure will be put on drivers in an effort to increase seatbelt compliance from 93% to 95% to 99%.

By the way, notice the increased amount of free publicity that incumbent Sheriff Nygren is getting in the Northwest Herald? I think readers can expect many more "press releases" in the next two months, and in the nine months between February and November.

I'm just finishing a great book that every person in McHenry County should read and own. The book is It's That Way Everywhere, George, written by George Wells, who was Mayor of Crystal Lake from 1991 to 1995. It doesn't have anything to do with seatbelts, but it sure has a lot to do with politics and the press in Crystal Lake and McHenry County!

If you'd like to buy a few copies for Christmas gifts, contact George at gcwells@morrisbb.net Tell George I sent you, and he might even give you a discount on the purchase of five copies.

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