Tool monitors drivers with poor records

March 12, 2008 4:01:10 PM PDT
A new high-tech program is intended to help keep area roads safe. Authorities are using it to track high-risk drivers and keep them off area roadways. The goal is to reduce crashes and save lives.

This new computer system will give judges and prosecutors in DuPage County a complete picture of the driving history of an offender.

Too many times in traffic court, judges and prosecutors don't have all the information. As a result, chronic offenders in Illinois have gotten away with supervision only and are back out on the roads. DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett says that problem has cost too many lives. But now, he says, new computer software should help to save lives.

"It's come through. It's come to life. And that's so great," said Natalie Donovan, victim's stepmother.

Natalie Donovan says this is a very good day -- the day the Westerhoff initiative, named after her stepdaughter, has become reality.

Nicole Westerhoff and her 4-year-old son, Devin, were killed in October of 2005 when a chronic speeder crashed into them. The man who hit them, Matthew Lane, still had a valid driver's license, even though he racked up more than 60 moving violations, most of those for speeding.

"This will save lives. Matthew Lane should not have been on the road," said Joe Birkett, DuPage County state's attorney.

DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett announced a new computer information sharing system Wednesday. It gives a driver's entire driving violation history, including all convictions and supervisions, as well as pending cases -- information that before this too often fell through the cracks.

"When Matthew Lane killed Nicole and Devin, he had cases pending in two counties, and if the court had the information he never would have been granted supervision. His license would have been suspended if not revoked," Birkett said.

"This is a truly phenomenal step forward for everyone involved in traffic court," said Ann Jorgensen, DuPage County chief judge.

Secretary of State Jesse White gave the system his endorsement Wednesday. Right now, the system's database only includes files from his office, as well as DuPage and DeKalb counties. But Kane and Will counties are considering taking part soon.

Natalie Donovan and her husband started a website -- faces4.org -- to try to prevent deaths from chronic speeding. She says Joe Birkett promised them to put this new system on line and believes it will save lives.

"We're so happy he followed through with his promise and we are so thankful and grateful to Joe Birkett's office for following through with this. We think it's wonderful," Donovan said.

Because pending cases are limited right now to DuPage and DeKalb counties, Joe Birkett admits some pending cases in other counties may still fall through the cracks. That's why he's making an offer to every county in Illinois -- he'll give them the software for free in exchange for them agreeing to enter all of their pending traffic cases on a daily basis.


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