Kristen Williams doesn't normally make a habit of breaking the law. But the 17-year-old admits she hasn't been following the statewide teen curfew.
Kristen Williams doesn't normally make a habit of breaking the law.
But the 17-year-old admits she hasn't been following the statewide teen curfew.
"I guess if (police) were to really start cracking down and ticketing, I would have to start following the law," said Williams, a Limestone Community High School student. "But as of right now, being home before 10 or 11 (p.m.) really just isn't appealing to me."
Illinois' new curfew law, which went into effect about six months ago, says teens 17 and younger can't be driving past 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and past 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. During the school year, the curfew is easier for teens to follow. But now that summer has arrived and weekdays blend into weekends, Williams isn't making any plans to start following curfew.
"I knew about the law, but I can't say that I ever acknowledged it," she said. "It was always just something that seemed like more of a guideline or suggestion rather than an actual law."
Still, Williams is one step ahead of many teens who hadn't heard about the new law.
"I didn't know about it until my parents got a letter in the mail about it last week," said Amanda Bishop, a 16-year-old Notre Dame High School student.
The teen driving curfew, effective Jan. 1, was proposed by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley to keep minors off the streets during the potentially more dangerous late night hours. This year through April 15, 22 teens ages 16 to 19 have died in traffic crashes in Illinois, according to a news release from Gov. Rod Blagojevich's office. That compares with 57 deaths of the same age group during the same period last year.
"Thirty-five fewer teens died during the period of this program," said Mike Stout, director of traffic safety for the Illinois Department of Transportation, at a news conference in Springfield last month. "Now, there's no way for us to say it was only because of that. But when the number is that significant, I believe anybody will look to this program and say . . . it worked."
Teens caught driving after curfew can have their licenses suspended and will receive a $75 ticket, said Peoria police traffic Sgt. Danny Swain. However, there are some exceptions to the law, including driving because of an emergency or returning home from work.
However, Swain said, police don't have the time or manpower to seek out disobedient teen drivers.
"We run across it more than we go out and patrol and find it," he said. "We don't have many of those violations, but that's not to say they aren't out there doing it."
Darrius Duncan, 17, a Peoria High School student, said he didn't know there was a statewide curfew. He and his friends spend a lot of summer nights hanging out with friends at restaurants that are open late, such as Steak 'n Shake and Buffalo Wild Wings. But now that Duncan is aware of curfew, he said he plans to follow it.
"I'm pretty obedient of the law," he said. "I'll probably go home or find an older driver . . . maybe we'll have to take the bus."
A'Lease Rutherford, 17, a Woodruff High School student, said teens shouldn't be held accountable for all late-night traffic accidents.
"People always blame teens," Rutherford said. "Adults are stressed and overworked, too. Not just us."
AAA spokeswoman Beth Mosher said the teen driving curfew undoubtedly will save lives.
"Study after study shows that the most dangerous times for teens to be driving is late at night," she said. "Illinois took a great step forward by helping our teens and pulling back those (curfew) times to 10 and 11."
The state now has one of the strongest curfew laws in the country, she said.
"It passed with flying colors, which is very, very unusual," she said. "Legislators take a lot of heat from people who say the government is clamping down too much. But what we're doing is trying to protect our teens. And I think people are finally starting to realize that."
Erin Wood can be reached at (309) 686-3194 or email@example.com.