State Representative Norine Hammond held a meeting at Chandler Park yesterday to present a copy of a new law to the Macomb resident who inspired House Bill 2386.
The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. Along with those accidents, around 390,000 injuries occur from those incidents. Illinois is not immune from those accidents and Troy Shirrell serves as a testament of the consequences of distracted driving.
Shirrell, a Macomb native, was involved in a traffic accident last fall while riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle. While driving on East Jackson Street, Shirrell was struck by a vehicle that was attempting to turn left from the center lane. Witnesses at the scene said that they saw the driver using their phone at the time of the accident. Shirrell was ejected from his motorcycle where he landed on the ground, breaking multiple bones and mangling his leg.
“I was pretty beat up,” Shirrell said. “I broke my femur, all of my ribs and my leg was pretty mangled.”
Luckily for Shirrell, Macomb Police Officer Troy Shoudel was on the scene quickly. Shoudel was the first responder to the incident and worked quickly to help Shirrell any way he could. Shoudel saw that Shirrell was bleeding out and quickly grabbed Shirrell’s belt and used it as a tourniquet to stop the blood flow from Shirrell’s left leg. Shirrell was then escorted to the hospital where they were unable to save the lower left half of his leg.
Following the accident, Shirrell spent almost 10 months in a wheelchair and had to completely learn how to walk again. He says that he is still getting used to having his prosthetic and is more aware of the actions that many people don’t think about. Shirrell also said that he has been back on a motorcycle since the accident but is extremely cautious when driving around town.
At the gathering in Chandler Park, Hammond thanked Shoudel for his heroic actions on that fateful day. “I’m going to start with Troy (Shoudel) because he’s the reason that Troy Shirrell is with us today and to you I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart and everyone here appreciates the actions you took on that horrible day,” Hammond said.
Following her thanks to officer Shoudel, Hammond spoke to Shirrell and showed her gratitude for his attitude and actions following the accident.
“Troy, to you, you have been an incredible inspiration through all of this and it didn’t have to be that way,” Hammond said. “I watched every Facebook post you had and thought to myself, ‘this gentleman is incredible.’ Your family has been there by your side to support you even throughout the crazy things you do. Troy, because of you, I am hopeful that the streets of Illinois are going to be safer and I’m just sorry that this is what it took for this to happen.”
Although Hammond sees this bill as a step in the right direction, she is not done working to insure the safety of Illinois motorists.
“I will say it’s a good starting point, particularly coming from $75 and a slap on the wrist,” Hammond said. “We talked about a $250 or $500 fine and I didn’t feel like it went far enough. I thought it needed to be a significant amount of money to deter people.”
Shoudel still says that he sees people on their phones constantly and simply does not have the time to stop everybody he sees, but he expressed that he is willing to do whatever it takes to keep the roads safe.
“If it makes sure that this family still has this many people standing here and not one less, then I’m happy to be the bad guy writing that ticket,” Shoudel said.
One solution that Hammond mentioned as a way to combat distracted driving is the introduction of Bluetooth devices. She said that even though many cars aren’t Bluetooth equipped, they are relatively inexpensive and safe to use. She also suggests pulling over instead of trying to answer texts while driving, which she admits adds time to her trips when driving. Hammond has continued to pursue legislation to keep motorists safe and is optimistic in the future. “I’m just hopeful that if we save one life or one limb, I think it’ll be worth it,” Hammond said.