Roadside memorial honors victim of distracted driving

July 15, 2011 (NAPERVILLE, Ill.)

The Miller family helped push legislation that allows roadside memorials in Illinois for the victims of distracted drivers.

Five-year-old Adam Miller was killed in 2008 by a distracted driver when the family's car was disabled along a street in Naperville. The family is also calling on tougher penalties for distracted drivers.

Until very recently, those roadside memorials were only allowed for people who were killed by intoxicated drivers.

But, when a driver plowed into the vehicle little Adam was sitting in, he was not drunk. He was reaching for a dropped cigar. His only punishment was a couple of traffic ticket's, so Adam Miller's family decided to fight back.

"The car was lit up light a Christmas tree. Other drivers saw it and went around. He simply wasn't looking and never saw," said Cheryl Miller, Adam's mother.

Thursday would have been Adam Miller's eighth birthday. But, instead of cake and candles, there is a new sign in memory of his death nearly three years ago. It stands along the stretch of road where his father pulled over on the evening of November 15, 2008, after getting a flat.

Testing on the vehicle that struck the Miller's vehicle later revealed the driver never hit the brakes.

"A precious life was taken, and I wasn't able to say anything. I didn't see any remorse on the part of the person, and I didn't see anybody fighting for (Adam's) voice," said Cheryl Miller.

Cheryl Miller decided to be that voice. She went to Springfield and called upon lawmakers to change the penalties for distracted drivers. And she fought for signs, to remember the victims killed by distracted drivers.

House Republican Leader Tom Cross is one of the people who worked on the bills, including House Bill 4580, which enhances the penalty for inattentive driving and requires mandatory revocation of a driver's license or permit.

"They're instances of people reading the newspaper, putting on lipstick, grabbing a cup of coffee, and we have to let people know, you're driving a vehicle that is 3,000 pounds at 55 mph. It's a weapon that can do extreme damage," Cross said.

Friday's unveiling brought together the Miller's family and friends. Many brought their own children with them. DuPage County Board President Dan Cronin says they are what people need to think about before making that phone call or sending that text while driving.

"You have to pay attention, and you have to be focused on what you're doing, because if you don't, somebody could die," said Cronin.

"I don't want to come across as whiny or preachy," said Cheryl Miller. "I just want to do something that empowers people. I'm just a suburban mother who lost her kid and this is what I was able to do."

Another piece of legislation that Cheryl Miller pushed for allows victims to make a statement in court on the impact of the defendants' conduct in cases related to motor vehicle violations. That bill has been sent to the governor and is awaiting his signature.

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