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Transportation: Giving up driver’s license for traffic ticket

Shortly after I began writing this column, I had the unfortunate coincidence of being stopped for driving over the speed limit not once, but twice.

Returning home from yoga, I was clocked exceeding the 35 mph speed limit on Royce Road in Bolingbrook. Quickly snapped out of the tranquility of my yoga brain, the Bolingbrook police officer handed me a ticket and reassured me that it could have been worse if I had been exceeding the speed limit by a greater amount.

Several months later, traveling above the 25 mile an hour speed limit on Knoch Knolls Road in Naperville, I was stopped by Naperville police. Maybe it was my particular circumstances, leaving Edward Hospital after a family member’s surgery or my recently tainted driving record, but the officer let me go with a warning.

In my circumstances, I wasn’t required to turn over my license, but in other cases, motorists in Illinois are required to do so. In today’s world, a driver’s license frequently is the only photo identification people carry. And photo ids are more in demand than ever — needed to get into schools, to show proof of identity when using credit cards at the outlet mall, and even to take the ACT.

A bill proposed by Illinois Sen. Michael Noland (D-Elgin) would allow motorists to keep their licenses after a petty traffic violation.

By a vote of 58 to 0, the Illinois State Senate approved the proposal last week, and it is off to the Illinois House of Representatives for consideration.

If passed, Illinois will join all other 49 states that already allow motorists keep their licenses.

“Taking away someone’s freedom to perform everyday activities for a minor traffic infraction is a disproportionately harsh response,” he said.

The change also would provide relief to our criminal justice system.

“It would reduce the number of cases that need to be heard in a court room in front of a judge,” Noland said.

“The change would allow motorists to sign a promise to pay the fine or appear in court.”

In some cases, police officers are allowed to make the determination whether to confiscate a license or not, DuPage County Circuit Court Clerk Chris Kachiroubas said.

“Many times motorists are handing over their only form of government identification for petty offenses such as making a bad left term or speeding slightly over 10 miles an hour.”

In other instances such as speeding in a school zone, excessive speeding or multiple violations, driver’s licenses must be forfeited to police, he added.

Historically in DuPage County, 45 percent of the 150,000 traffic tickets issued each year require a court appearance, Kachiroubas said.

Some motorists have a bond card from their insurance company that can be given in lieu of a driver’s license, but many motorists only have their driver’s license, he said.

“Most motorists are left with a gold colored, handwritten paper as their sole identification,” Kachiroubas said.

It has been a slow uphill fight to get the culture change, he said.

“Some police departments contend that their constituents will not show up in court unless they confiscate their driver’s license.”

In addition, Kachiroubas said, the court of administering the proper handling and return of a driver’s license to a motorist is costly for the county.

Confiscation of driver’s license or not, the best way to avoid a speeding ticket is to not speed.

In the months since my brushes with the law, I have tried my very best to drive the posted speed limit, and while my yoga brain totally gets it, I still am in serious conversations to get my runner’s foot to abide.

Tell Cathy Janek about your interesting driving experience at cathymjanek@gmail.com.

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