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Kadner: Memorial signs for DUI victims

DUI Memorial signs like this one near 183rd Street 80th Avenue Tinley Park are available from Cook County Department TransportatiHighways

DUI Memorial signs like this one near 183rd Street and 80th Avenue in Tinley Park are available from the Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways and the Illinois Department of Transportation at a cost of $150 for the "Please Don't Drink and Drive" sign and an addition $50 each for a memorial plaque. Relatives of a deceased victim must apply for the signs and be approved by the appropriate government agency in charge of the road. | Phil Kadner/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 30, 2014 6:16AM



Motorists may be noticing some blue signs along the sides of area roads that have nothing to do with identifying streets or regulating traffic.

Then again, if you’re like me, you drove by them every day without noticing at all.

The DUI Memorial markers apparently were made available after a lobbying effort by the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists and can be purchased by the families of victims through the Illinois Department of Transportation or Cook County’s’s Department of Transportation and Highways.

The signs cost $150 for a message that reads “Please Don’t Drink and Drive” and another $50 for a plaque beneath that carries the name of an individual who died as a result of an accident caused by an impaired driver.

There apparently are memorial markers also available through both transportation agencies for victims of reckless driving, such as text messaging, that reads “Reckless Driving Costs Lives.”

You have to find out whether your loved one died on a state or county road and then apply to the appropriate agency.

According to the Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways website, anyone whose loved one died in a crash caused by a drunk or drugged driver can apply for a sign.

The signs are maintained by the state and county for two years and then removed, although the plaque bearing the name of the loved one is returned to the person who purchased it.

A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Transportation told me its program began in 2007, but I have to admit I hadn’t noticed any signs until recently.

The ones I saw were apparently on county roads. Cook County only began its roadside memorial marker program in 2012.

The sign that first caught my eye was located along the west side of 80th Avenue near its intersection of 183rd Street in Tinley Park.

I’ve noticed lots of “homemade” roadside memorials along 80th Avenue over the years, but the one near 183rd Street has had fresh flowers and wreaths placed on it for a very long time.

It turns out the DUI Memorial Marker and “homemade” memorials are both tributes to the memory of Philip “Willy” Rangel who was killed Nov. 4, 2009.

The driver of the car that struck Rangel was charged with aggravated DUI and eventually pled guilty and sentenced to seven years in prison.

Tests showed that he had freon and traces of marijuana in his body at the time of the crash.

Rangel was walking to a nearby Metra station after working as a Tinley Park ambulance dispatcher when he was hit.

He grew up in, and still lived in, Blue Island at the time of his death.

A white wood cross with the hand-written words “We Miss You, Willy” remains planted in the grass near the accident site, although a spokesman for IDOT told me the hope was that the official DUI memorial program would replace such makeshift memorials.

I don’t know when that sort of thing became popular, but I can’t recall any roadside memorials as a child or young adult.

I wish I could believe, as the supporters of this idea apparently do, that such tributes, sanctioned by the government or not, make people think twice about driving under the influence.

My experience is that alcoholics certainly don’t ponder such issues in any depth while drinking and social drinkers always think they can handle “a few beers” and drive.

According to a spokesman for Cook County, it has erected only three of the memorial markers, but two are in the south suburbs.

That include the one near 183rd Street and a reckless driving memorial marker, at 135th Street and 88th Avenue.

The third sign is located in Glenview.

The sign on 88th Avenue is the most recent, having been approved in August 2013, according to county officials.

IDOT has placed 80 DUI memorial signs and 10 reckless driving signs on state-owned roads.

I always feel badly for the families and friends who constructed those home made memorials and find myself wondering if they’re reaching out to the spirit of the loved one who died, or trying to warn the rest of use about our mortality.

I don’t know how much different a sign on the road is going to make when it comes to driving safety.

Obviously, I didn’t even notice the signs until recently.

They came about, in part, as the result of Tina’s Law, which was passed in the aftermath of the death of Tina Ball, 36, the mother of seven, who was killed by a drunk driver on I-57 while directing traffic around a road construction site.

People on cell phones and text messaging while driving seem as great a hazard to life these days as those who abuse alcohol.

But do they really need any roadside memorial reminders that their behavior could cost someone their life?

I’m reminded every time I get in my car because I always encounter some motorist toying with a cell phone who isn’t watching the road.

After near collisions, they always smile and wave, as if sharing an inside joke.

Of course, the danger with roadside memorial signs, is that you can be distracted by them as well.

No one ever seems to think about that sort of thing, but as I tried to read the memorial markers (in the line of duty) my concentration behind the wheel was less than 100 percent.

You will be gratified to know that spokesmen for the state and Cook County contend the price of the signage covers the cost of its production, installation and maintenance for two years.

The government, I am told, is not making money off this deal.

Yet, even as I wrote those words, I could almost hear readers snickering and imagine them poking each other in the ribs.

Hey, I wonder if we could purchase roadside markers that read, “Taking bribes can land you in prison.”

They wouldn’t work. But they might make some people feel better.



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