December 31, 2011 5:40PM
Police set up a seat-belt enforcement zone. The new law now in effect makes seat belts mandatory for all passengers in vehicles and allows police to stop any car with an unbelted rider. | Sun-Times Media File
Updated: January 1, 2012 2:42AM
More than 200 new laws take effect in Illinois on New Year’s Day, dealing with everything from lost pets to online bullying to seat belt use.
The laws take in a wide variety of subjects, many of which raised concerns during 2011.
Seat belt changes
Just like unrestrained front seat riders, back seat passengers who aren’t buckled up during an accident can suffer head, chest and abdominal trauma.
Back seat passengers also can become human projectiles during a crash, injuring or even killing others in the vehicle, state officials have said.
Beginning Jan. 1, Illinois requires all passengers, including previously exempt back seat riders age 18 and older, to buckle up.
The bill was signed into law during the summer. It allows police officers to stop a car if they spot an unbuckled rider. Fines start at $25 but can be more, depending on court costs.
While most people killed in automobile accidents are front seat riders, 64 percent of back seat passengers killed are not wearing seat belts.
Does the back-seat belt requirement law help make things safer?
“Sure it’s a good thing,” said Naperville Police Chief David Dial. “Anything that’s not tied down in a car, including people, has to come to an abrupt stop when there’s a crash … There is no doubt that when there are people in a car and the car comes to a stop, they go forward. I personally would not even think of riding in a car, in any seat, without having a seat belt on.”
He’s not aware of any fatalities in the city that resulted from an unbelted back seat passenger being catapulted into somebody in front, but he thinks it’s a significant danger all the same.
What about the argument made by state Rep. Monique Davis, one of those who opposed the new measure, that law enforcement’s time and resources are better spent chasing bad guys?
“I simply disagree with her,” Dial said. “It is every bit as important to be safe in an automobile as it is to be safe anywhere else, and in Naperville we have more people killed or injured in auto accidents than are hurt in crimes.”
In clearing the post-Christmas clutter, do not throw out the old electronic gadgets with the wrappings.
As of Jan. 1, that is against the law.
According to the state’s new and improved Electronic Recycling and Reuse Act, it is now illegal to throw them out and illegal for landfills to accept them.
Not only are consumers required to recycle TVs, computers, video games and much more, but so are manufacturers.
According to the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the increasingly short lifespan of electronic items makes them the fastest-growing waste. They contain a lot of toxic materials — lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium — but also a lot of reusable materials — copper, gold, plastic, glass, circuit chips.
If recycling is “convenient,” people will do it, said Melville Nickerson, an ELPC attorney.
Naperville operates a drop-off site for electronics recycling from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday on the grounds of the Public Works center at 180 Fort Hill Drive. Among the accepted items are computers and monitors, fax machines, microwave ovens, printers, radios, rechargeable batteries, most small appliances, toner cartridges, TVs/DVD players/VCRs, and vacuum cleaners. Items that cannot be left at the collection center include air conditioners, dehumidifiers, refrigerators and smoke detectors.
Will County offers a free pickup service at one’s front door, if you live in the unincorporated part of the county.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Will County also operate permanent collection sites where anyone can drop off their unwanted electronic items.
Some stores will accept old equipment when a new item is purchased.
The amended law mandates more items be recycled — more than any other state requires — such as VCRs, DVD players, keyboards, computer mice, fax machines, scanners, video game consoles and digital converter boxes.
The law also sets the highest recycling goals for manufacturers.
In 2012, they must recycle — by weight — 40 percent of what they sold in 2010. By 2013, the goal increases to 50 percent.
That means e-recycling will increase from 28 million pounds in 2011 to more than 50 million in 2012.
While the IEPA will enforce the law at the state’s 48 landfills, they won’t be snooping through people’s garbage cans, Nickerson said. If items are placed at the curb for garbage pickup, waste haulers will not take them.
“There are no garbage police. Individuals will do their own policing,” he said. “As awareness grows, people will see it is simply the right thing to do.”
Fighting fake pot
Fake pot isn’t normally hard to find. It’s not kept in some back room.
Tobacco shops usually put synthetic marijuana on display.
All of this was legal across Illinois, until Jan. 1. Springfield lawmakers have joined a national movement to get the stuff off store shelves about three years after it first appeared in the United States.
“They’re nothing like marijuana,” Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow said.
Sold under several names, synthetic marijuana is most commonly labeled “K2” or “Spice.” It’s usually sold as potpourri or incense and “not for human consumption.” The pouches contain plant material laced with chemicals, drug officials said, meant to simulate the effects of marijuana, offering a “legal high.”
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy reports poison control centers took 5,741 synthetic-marijuana-related calls in the first 10 months of 2011. That’s nearly twice the 2,915 calls in all of 2010.
The Illinois Poison Center said it took in 306 synthetic marijuana calls from Chicago and its suburbs in 2011, more than a four-fold increase from last year.
Fake pot can cause everything from psychotic episodes to hallucinations to seizures to nausea and vomiting, according to the White House and public health departments across the country.
It’s blamed for contributing to the death of Max Dobner, an Aurora teenager who died last summer in a 100-mph car crash after using synthetic marijuana. In the months since the crash, Dobner’s mother, Karen, has been the leader of efforts to get communities around the northern Illinois to ban the substances.
Dial said that the city have been active in Naperville to let store owners know of the change.
“We have sent out letters alerting some of our businesses in town that if they have these things on their shelves, they have to get them out as of Jan. 1,” Dial said. “We do think it’s an important step in getting these dangerous items out of the hands of the people who might abuse them.”
One of the new measures is “Andrea’s Law,” named after Andrea Will of Batavia, who was killed by her former boyfriend at Eastern Illinois University.
Andrea’s Law requires that people convicted of first-degree murder must be added to a new first-degree murder database, similar to the sex offender registry, when they are released from prison or any other facility. The public database would include names, addresses, employment places, schools attended and photos for offenders for up to 10 years after their release from prison.
Andrea Will was a freshman at Eastern Illinois University in 1998 when she was murdered by her former boyfriend, Justin Boulay of St. Charles.
Andrea’s mother, Patty Rosenberg, began her campaign for Andrea’s Law after learning Boulay was being released from prison in November 2010, after serving only half of a 24-year sentence for first-degree murder. The law quickly made its way through the legislature and was signed by Gov. Pat Quinn last summer.
Patty Rosenberg also hopes to work with other states which might consider a similar registry, including Hawaii, where Boulay is now living with the woman he married while in prison.
Among other laws that have now taken effect in the state:
Convicted sex offenders who are employed at or attend a college or university must register with campus public safety.
School boards can suspend or expel a student who makes an explicit threat on a website against another student or school employees.
People with an order of protection issued against them must surrender their Firearm Owners Identification Card until the order is lifted. Anyone convicted of domestic battery is ineligible to obtain or keep an FOID card.
Motorists stopped at a red light may proceed through the light if it fails to change to green after a reasonable length of time.
Animal-control facilities scanning a lost pet for a microchip also must look for other common forms of identification, including tattoos and ID tags.
Antique vehicle owners have unrestricted use of highways from April 1 through Oct. 31 if they obtain an expanded-use registration.