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Driver in Illinois " huffing" fatality sentenced to 12-year term

The majority of deaths among teenagers is due to auto accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cook County teens gain on-road experience before receiving full driving privileges through the state's graduated licensing program, but maturity is not measured. False bravado that sometimes accompanies youth can play out behind the wheel with deadly results.

Teens may be tempted to engage in unsafe driving activities like interacting with same-age passengers and talking or texting on cellphones. All Illinois drivers are prohibited from texting while driving. Substance abuse while driving is also a frequent cause of fatal car accidents among teens, which authorities in Stark County said led to a deadly crash in Kewanee.

The negligent driver in the 2011 single-vehicle accident passed out after "huffing" the contents of a cleaning product in a compressed-air container. The Toulon driver, now 20, and an injured teen passenger survived the accident. Three male passengers, ages 15 to 18, did not.

Court records said the passengers did not participate in the driver's dangerous activity. The boys reportedly shouted at the driver after the huffing incident. The driver apparently did not respond to the pleas before the crash any more than he reacted to the sentencing on aggravated driving under the influence and reckless homicide charges.

The defense lawyer unsuccessfully sought probation for his married client, the father of twins. The convicted driver received a 12-year prison sentence, less than half the maximum punishment and eight years less than prosecutors recommended. An appeal is planned.

Criminal punishments short of life imprisonment are paths to eventual freedom for negligent drivers. Injured accident victims and families devastated by the losses of loved ones are scarred permanently.

Monetary recovery for damages caused by the negligence of another person is secured through Illinois liability claims. Settlements and jury awards compensate victims for economic and physical pain and suffering.

Source:, "Toulon man receives 12 years for 'huffing' before fatal crash" Gary L. Smith, Sep. 09, 2013

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