The Truth About Cars » Chicago The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 15 Jul 2014 13:19:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Chicago Junkyard Find, Crabspirits Editions: Toyota Cressidas, Transformed By Michael Bay Fri, 28 Mar 2014 11:55:51 +0000 baycress14
To preface, this intrusion into the thunder dome that is Murilee’s arena isn’t going to be a regular occurrence. If you’ve ever seen him once-over a suspect entrant at a Lemons race, you know he is master of his domain. I’m not just any geek off the street myself though when it comes to the junkyard. I’ve seen my share of rare iron, intriguing clues of the final ride, and ill-advised repairs that command attention. However, there are special times when I walk through these hallowed grounds and see something that makes me come to a halt as quickly as an Iron Duke stripping it‘s plastic timing gear. This was such an occasion.

I drive own a Toyota Cressida. With architecture pulled from the Supra, an MX83 Cressida makes a brilliant enthusiast car,  after you ruin it  swap out the failure prone engine, the automatic transmission, the bouncy seats, the too-tall final drive, all of the luxury damped suspension, and graft on a more stylish front end off a Japanese market cousin that is appreciated by 1.3% of the population. This makes it the car of choice for like-minded individuals who don’t take cars or motor sports very seriously.  Since a running Cressida is a feat in itself, you  come to realize a few things when you join this exclusive fraternity. Along with the endless search for a rust-free and straight example, one of those things is the keen eye you develop for spotting what is, to most people, an ubiquitous-looking Japanese Buick LeSabre. That is why these Hong Kong taxi cabs caused quite a stir when they were spotted by a fellow Cressida enthusiast last fall outside of Chicago. They must be for some sort of movie (we are becoming used to stuff like that around here). What movie would that be? More importantly, would they be available for purchase later?

The answers to those questions respectively would turn out to be,  the fourth installment of the Transformers films, and sadly, no.


This one had evidence to suggest it took one of it’s final drives to an ATM in Moreno Valley, CA. Judging by their condition, I would surmise all of them were trucked in from the Los Angeles area. The prop department put in a nice effort loosely disguising  the cars as  the Toyota Crown Comfort sibling commonly found overseas.


In addition to the chrome vinyl “grille extension”, and blacked out trim, the sunroofs have been painstakingly deleted.


I can’t read what this says, but the oddly familiar skyline leads me to believe that it could be some sort of easter egg made by the prop department.


The 7M series engine’s propensity for spitting out head gaskets is legendary. Allegedly, this was due to a last minute design change from an asbestos gasket, combined with a fumble in the head bolt torque spec for the new one.  This lead to a painful ownership experience for many initial owners of Cressidas and Supras. The 7M faithful will tell you that the remedy is simple, and that it’s an outstanding engine. They are probably right. I wouldn’t know for sure. Mine was totally wrecked, never ran, and was promptly replaced with a 425hp turbocharged Nissan VG30.


Almost an LS400. Almost. I must say that I’ve seen more tortilla-chip-crisp Toyota leather interiors covered with the beater hallmark ratty T-shirt than in GM cars. Sorry, but they just do it better.


This next car, marked “Reel”, was super clean.


I imagine this example will be stripped to the bone by the Chicago horde, who are not used to the luxuries of corrosion-free sheet metal.


At 273k miles, it’s head gasket was surely blessed at one point.


This pales in comparison to our next car…


…with only 54k miles. That puts it right there at the point of the dreaded BHG. Paramount probably got themselves a great deal on this, probably not running, example. I thought the little sticker indicating overspeed at a scorching 55mph was a nice touch. I imagine it was applied last minute on this ‘89 as a result of some sort of mandate.

This car was, at one point, an exact twin to mine.


It has been thoroughly destroyed.


The drive train was removed, and the bottom fitted with this steel blast plate, which is apparently very effective at coaxing a Cressida into the air.


To say you have parts on your project off of a car that was destroyed by a Decepticon is sort of cool (to this Gen-X’er anyway), so I wanted something, anything of value off of this guy. I managed to wrench some A-pillar trim that I needed free of the mangled windshield, but that was pretty much it. I was especially depressed that the tail lights specific to the early models were not spared.


It has those automatic mouse track seatbelts, pioneered by the Cressida, that you know and love. To be honest, this setup has never really bothered me. I even find it’s servo action, blaring klaxon, and emergency “ejection” handles sort of charming in a geeky way.


This MX83 of the typical fender-rolled, “stanced-out” variety makes four, and the most I’ve seen in one place.


The junkyard, certainly more than meets the eye. (Groan)


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Court Order May Finally Get Chicago EV Charging Network Fully Operational Thu, 26 Sep 2013 11:30:43 +0000 W1siZiIsImltYWdlcy9jYXJjaGFyZ2VfM19pLUFCTi0wOTI5MjAxMS5qcGciXSxbInAiLCJjb252ZXJ0IiwiLXJlc2l6ZSA3NzB4NDAwXl4gLWdyYXZpdHkgQ2VudGVyIC1jcm9wIDc3MHg0MDArMCswIC1zdHJpcCArcmVwYWdlIl1d

After a ruling in federal court, a Chicago area electric vehicle charging network may finally become completely operational. The quick charging stations were installed under a $1.9 million federal grant, but two contractors who installed them for the network’s original owner, 350Green, had been locked in a legal battle over ownership of the system.

The court ruled that the charging stations be turned over to JNS power, an Arlington Heights based electric contractor which had installed about 40% of the stations. The other contractor, Car Charging Group, based in Florida, said that it would appeal the ruling. 350Green had made deals with both companies earlier this year to take over the charging stations. The city of Chicago had terminated it agreement with 350Green last April when allegations surfaced that the company fraudulently submitted evidence of payments made to contractors that were not in fact paid. In July, the company’s officers were the subject of a FBI search.

Of 219 charging stations scheduled to be installed under the program, 51 remain uninstalled. Those stations that were installed have been abandoned while the legal battle over who owns them has continued. Some work, some don’t, and some are the subject of contractor liens. Some stations that work, can’t be used because you can’t buy one of the cards needed to use them.

JNS said that it will be moving the project forward as soon as possible. An attorney for JNS said, “Our client is obviously satisfied with the court’s decision and the expedited nature by which the court rendered its decision. JNS is looking forward to getting this federally funded city project back on track to provide an efficient network of car charging stations to the entire Chicago metropolitan area.”

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$57 Million Chicago Ford Dealership Delayed As Aldermen Play Politics Tue, 13 Aug 2013 21:25:17 +0000 110428wardremap

FMG Holdings, which operates a number of car dealerships in western Michigan under the name of Fox Motors, had planned on spending $57 million turning an abandoned industrial site on Chicago’s North Side into a large Ford store but it has now given Chicago politicians an Oct. 1st deadline to either approve or deny their zoning application after the issue has gotten mired in local politics and injected with the issue of race.

According to Automotive News, FMG had approached Alederman Scott Waguespack about his support of their plan to develop a 102,000 square foot Ford dealership in his ward, Chicago’s 32nd. The store would replace a defunct dealership also in Chicago, and it would employ about 200 people.

Waguespack solicited feedback from constituents, who approved, so he decided to support FMG, though he turned down their request for a tax-increment financing subsidy. The Chicago Plan Commission also approved the zoning request, but then the plan stalled after other aldermen representing predominantly Hispanic wards got involved, asking what Ford has done to give franchises to Hispanics.

One of the aldermen, Danny Solis, chairman of the City Council’s Latino Caucus, also chairs the City Council Committee on Zoning, which has tabled Fox’s request twice. Solis gives Ford’s lack of any Hispanic owned dealerships in the Chicago area as his reason. “We want some form of commitment from Ford,” Solis says. “Ford should be sensitive to giving a fair shake to the Hispanic community.”

While Ford may not have any stores in Chicagoland owned by Latinos, one particular Latino, Jose Diaz, whose family used to own a Miami, Florida Chrysler dealership and who is said to maintain a residence in Chicago, seems to be the person that Solis has in mind, as it is Diaz’s name that Solis has suggested to Ford. Diaz has been promoting his own plan to open up a dealership in a different location than in the 32nd ward. He’s also given campaign contributions to Latino aldermen, inlcuding $6,800 to Solis’  25th Ward Regular Democratic Organization. Solis denies a connection between those contributions and his inaction on Fox’s zoning request.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s office said that the request will come up for a committee vote on Sept. 4 and a full city council vote later in September.

Because of the delay, Fox says that it had to extend an option to purchase that would have expired in early August but a spokeswoman said that it would be the last extension the company would seek and that if a decision wasn’t rendered before October, they would walk away. Still, the company knows it has to be diplomatic.

“From our experience, when you go through zoning, it has to do with whether you’re complying with the law,” Monica Sekulich, general counsel at Fox Motors, told the Automotive News. “We’re frustrated by the [Chicago] process. But we’re optimists. … We are excited about doing this deal.”

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Trackday Diaries: He Wrangled ‘Till The Butcher Cut Him Down. Mon, 04 Mar 2013 13:00:29 +0000

“So, I ordered myself a Jeep.”

“Awesome! What did you end up getting?”

“Loaded Sahara Unlimited, Gecko Green, tan leather, six-speed manual, just like you suggested.”

“Well, that is what I suggested alright… but…”

“But what?”

“I didn’t think you were actually going to do it.”

When TTAC alumnus Michael Karesh reviewed an automatic-transmission Sahara Unlimited last year, he enthused over the Jeep’s ability to be “steered with the throttle” and suggested that the manual-transmission variant might be even quicker than his tested automatic. Alas, he stated that the tires led to “mushy slides”, thus slightly reducing my enthusiasm for such a tail-happy beast. The last time I drove something that was both able to be steered with the throttle and did mushy sliding, it was a Camaro-Mustang-Challenge race car on used tires in the middle of a relatively long sprint race, and I found it to be a handful indeed.

Still, when my pal Curvy McLegalbriefs decided to go shopping for a Jeep last year I put in a vote for a manual-transmission Wrangler. She already owned a Grand Cherokee and a Crossfire so the Wrangler was simply going to be a toy for when she felt like bombing around the unimproved roads surrounding her century-old brick home, said domicile being located in the area known to readers of The Hunger Games as “District 12″. Still, it was a leap of faith; she didn’t know how to operate a stick-shift and our initial driving lessons in my Boxster, which took place after she’d ordered the Jeep, were marked by quite a bit of stalling and the occasional Ben-Kingsley-in-Sexy-Beast outburst from my place in the passenger seat.

Ten thousand miles later, she’s quite used to her green machine and she cheerfully zips it up and down very steep hills with no trouble whatsoever. I expected this would happen. She doesn’t give up easily. It’s part of her character. She grew up on a farm in the Midwest, studying the distant contrails overhead and planning her escape with meticulous precision. Cut to the present day, and she’s been everywhere from London to Guantanamo Bay. She has a bright future, a taste for vintage clothing, and no female friends whatsoever.

When a friend of mine asked me to come out to Chicago for a weekend and play bass for a guitar-club jam at some crappy dive bar halfway between the lake and O’Hare Airport, I looked at the distance (760 miles roundtrip), the equipment I’d need to bring for the trip (one SWR 4×10 cabinet, one amp rack, one Fender Jaco Pastorius Artist fretless four-string, one Carvin SB5000 five-string with a flamed koa top), and the weather (ten degrees above zero, snow predicted). I then asked C. McL if I could borrow the Jeep. She agreed, on the condition that she come along to keep me out of trouble. I had no objections.

Stick-shift Wranglers of the current generation are pretty rare. In fact, I’d never driven one before, since the press fleet at the intro was mostly automatics and I’m no longer on the Chrysler loaner list. My first impressions as we loaded the Jeep with two hundred-plus pounds of gear and pulled away towards Chicago were mostly negative. The clutch has a long pedal travel but ninety percent of it is superfluous. The long “bite zone” that I really appreciated in my old five-speed Discovery isn’t present here. Off-road, that would matter. Nor is the shifter up the standards of my ’97 Rover. Not even close. It’s long, agricultural, and extremely vague. My admiration for my traveling companion grew as I rowed the gears on the way out of my neighborhood. Was I in fourth or sixth? Only the lugging Pentastar knew for sure.

Speaking of which… Chrysler’s V-6 is my favorite among the current crop of big-power domestic sixes, well ahead of the DI Chevy in second place and the 3.7 Duratec in a distant, thrashy third. In the Chrysler 200, the Pentastar is fantastic. In the Caravan, it’s good. In the Wrangler, it feels overmatched. It needs to rev to make anything happen and it appears to have none of the casual thrust the old four-liter Jeep engine possessed in spades. Surely there’s a bit of perspective shear at work here, as I’m certain the 4.0 was weaker than the Pentastar everywhere a dyno could measure, but there you go. To make this Wrangler move with traffic, you have to shift aggressively and keep the hammer down. The observed fuel economy of 16.5mpg I saw during the trip is a reflection of that.

It’s also a reflection of the Jeep’s barn-door silhouette. The conditions of the oral travel agreement to which C. McL and I both agreed prior to the trip stated that my iPod would be plugged into the uConnect head unit for the duration, and that I would select the music. Unfortunately for me, my old 160GB iPod Classic doesn’t work with the uConnect head, so instead we listened to a hellish confection of Muse, Mumford & Sons, and the Zac Brown Band on various Sirius channels. In those conditions, I was glad that wind noise at 80mph and above makes the stereo almost useless. We stopped at Sweetwater Sound in Fort Wayne to pick up a 1/8″ cable, but cranking up to hear the quiet parts of “Blue Train” made the loud parts unbearable. Back to Mumford & Sons.

I’d never been in a Wrangler that rode particularly well, and I still haven’t, but this Sahara is far from the CJ-5s of my youth. The super-long (by Jeep standards) wheelbase spaces the bumps out and the tooth-rattling reaction to speedbumps I remember from various BMX-related trips in soft-top YJs is gone. As we entered Chicago proper, the Wrangler came into its element a bit. The pockmarked, off-camber streets of America’s Second City (All the hassle of New York, with none of the good parts!) didn’t bother it much. The Pentastar proved capable of pulling hard enough in first and second to make the gaps where required. The high driving position offered me a chance to stare Cayenne drivers down as I signaled my desire to acquire their current lane positions, by force if necessary. The long throws of the shifter never became second nature to me but my gearchanges became slightly less deliberate after a while.

To unload my gear at the bar, I had to make a sharp U-turn and pop up a curb, and the Wrangler handled that task at least as well as my Town Car would have. Perhaps more usefully, people in the immediate vicinity smiled at my actions, because — hey — I’m in a bright green Jeep, how bad of a guy can I be? In fact, I repeatedly noticed that kind of goodwill shown to the Sahara over the course of the weekend, including a fellow who stopped in the middle of the road of Chicago Music Exchange to offer me a paid-up parking meter pass. He wasn’t even in a Jeep; he was driving an F-150. But he was a fan.

Tuning up my Jaco bass, I confirmed what I had suspected: the combination of ten-degree external temperatures, an uninsulated fiberglass top, and an overmatched HVAC system had combined to detune the instrument’s low string from E to C#. That’s great if you’re Stanley Clarke and you’re about to hold down the low end on a Return to Forever song but for me it was a worrisome sign that extended Jeep trips would be bad news for wooden instruments. After half an hour in the bar things were back to normal, but in the interest of reviewing the Wrangler for a wide audience I should note that I’d hesitate before carrying precious items through the winter in this vehicle, whether we’re talking a PRS Private Stock with mammoth-ivory and paua heart bird inlays or something less expensive, like a human heart packed in ice. Luckily I left the PRS at home and I’ve never had a human heart of any kind.

To my immense satisfaction, the gig broke up at midnight or so, allowing me to leave the Wrangler on the top floor of the Intercontinental Hotel’s parking garage and get a full night’s worth of sleep before heading home the next day. Despite numerous attempts to do so, I never managed to steer the Jeep with the throttle, possibly because I was being a bit of a wimp. There’s nothing like the threat of an SWR bass cabinet hitting you in the back to calm down the ol’ hooning impulse. By the same token, I never managed to turn the tires to mush of any kind. They seemed fine. I made a couple of aggressive moves in the very short spaces between tollbooths on Chicago’s so-called freeway system and was never particularly disappointed in the Wrangler’s response. It wasn’t as good as my old Rovers in that respect either but neither did it ever give any sign that it was about to roll over or do anything traditionally Jeepy. The brakes were strong and dependable. The dynamic package is perfectly up to the standards of the modern road environment.

At the end of the trip, I briefly considered whether I’d buy one of these for myself. I had to conclude that the answer was “not really”. I don’t need the Jeep’s off-road capability and if I found myself doing a lot of out-of-town gigs in bad weather I’d probably just put snow tires on an AWD minivan. Still, it’s a charming and utterly unique vehicle in a marketplace that is increasingly converging towards some sort of One Tall Wagon To Rule Them All. More than anything, the Wrangler points out what crap Land Rover’s turning out nowadays. Bloated junk that won’t hold up or travel through rough conditions like the Wrangler can, at half again the money. Depressing. I’d rather have this Wrangler than any current LR product… but I’d rather have my ’97 Discovery, suitably updated with modern electronics, over the Wrangler.

For my little attorney friend, the Wrangler is just great. She’s very good at driving it now and she likes being able to make plans regardless of weather or road surface. I’m glad she got it, and I’m glad it’s still available for her and people like her to buy. It’s still the real thing.

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2012 Chicago Auto Show Preview Mon, 06 Feb 2012 15:54:47 +0000

Our coverage of the 2012 Chicago Auto Show will kick off Wednesday, but preparations begin tomorrow, as our team, headed up by hizzoner Jack Baruth, makes its way to the Windy City. We’ve got a brief rundown of what you can expect to see from the TTAC team of writers and photographers on site at McCormick Place.

Acura: With Acura having debuted “concepts” (read: barely disguised versions of the production car) of the RDX crossover and ILX sedan at Detroit, the two cars will bow officially at Chicago. The RDX gets a V6 to replace the thirsty but punchy turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, which should deliver more power and much better fuel economy. The ILX (which may be re-named the IL, following Acura naming conventions) will also get its debut, and will be crucial to Acura’s plans for picking itself up off the floor and getting the attention of new customers.

Chrysler/Dodge/Ram/Fiat: The Marchionne-ruled conglomerate will show off a few products with minor revisions. Mopar versions of the Jeep Compass, Dodge Dart and Fiat 500 will debut alongside a Ram Laramie Limited Edition pickup. Chrysler will also introduce the Mopar ’12 300, a tuned 300S with some cosmetic changes and slightly quicker acceleration times.

Ford: The droptop version of the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 will debut. No word on whether this car will get the coupe version’s insane 200 MPH top speed rating. The 650 horsepower should be enough to blow the hair transplant right out of most owner’s scalps.

GMC: The 2013 GMC Acadia will show off its all-new design, as the first of GM’s Lambda crossovers to get any changes since their 2006 debut. New sheetmetal, powertrains and interior changes are expected. The Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave will follow later this year.

Hyundai: The Korean automaker continues its imperial deathmarch towards industry dominance with the debut of two variants of the Elantra. A two-door coupe, looking very similar to the sedan, will debut, as well as a 5-door hatchback based on the European i30. This is the car featured in the infamous video featuring VW boss Martin Winterkorn freaking out over the vehicle’s build quality – it’s promising, to say the least.

Kia: Kia will show off the Trackstar concept, supposedly a performance oriented version of the Soul. Early sketches look goofy.

Nissan: A refreshed 2013 model 370Z will bow alongside the NV200 passenger van. Unlike the commercial versions of the NV already on sale, the NV200 will be the next New York City taxi, and can seat up to 12 passengers.

Toyota: Because civillians, as well as UN peacekeepers and medicins sans frontiers workers buy the Land Cruiser, Toyota will show off the refreshed 2013 version in Chicago, with sales starting immediately.

Volkswagen: A TDI powered 2013 Beetle will debut, featuring the familiar 2.0L TDI engine making 140 horsepower, with a choice of 6-speed manual or DSG transmissions.

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Nixon, Muppets, and an Intrepid: BS Inspections of the Showroom-Schlock Shootout 24 Hours of LeMons Sat, 08 Oct 2011 04:27:20 +0000 We’re here at Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Illinois, for the first annual Showroom-Schlock Shooutout (we raced here last year, but the race was called the Rod Blagojevich Never-Say-Die 500). The track is great, the weather is perfect, and we’ve got some super-LeMonic cars among the hundred or so entries.
We’ve got a real dilemma in the Judgemobile department. Do we go with the Reliant Super Robin, provided for us by the very generous team that’s racing…
…this VW Type 3 Squareback?
Or do we use the ’12 Dodge Challenger SRT8, provided by Chrysler? What do you think? Super Robin all the way! Both cars will get to do pace car duty tomorrow, so there’s a consolation prize for the tire-charring Mopar.
This extremely redneck-looking ’81 LTD Crown Victoria has never raced on dirt before (though its builder has been building dirt-track racers for decades), in spite of its appearance, and it turned out to be very well constructed and set up. The driver claims 50/50 weight distribution with the engine and driver setback, and we believe him.Team Resignation is back with their Milhous Special Escort. They are not crooks!
The legendary Speedycop had arranged for the owner of the amazing Rent-A-’65-Impala-Wagon to meet him Friday morning at Autobahn, and he and his henchmen flew in from Maryland for that purpose. Only problem was, no Impala, and no contact from the owner! No problem, said Speedycop, we’ll find a car on Craigslist tonight and prep it. Fortunately, the Impala’s owner finally checked in, and the car should be arriving early Saturday morning. Here we see Speedycop getting his imaginary car inspected.
I’ve always sort of liked the early Chrysler LH cars, in spite of their inherent horribleness, and so it made me very happy to see this dead-stock Dodge Intrepid gearing up to race. It has the hot 24-valve engine, but I still put it in C Class. That means it’s racing against the likes of Olds 98s and the Squareback.
Speaking of Class C, check out this Opel GT with Mazda rotary. It needs some roll-cage work and a windshield, plus it doesn’t exactly have a carburetor right now. Don’t worry, though, because it’s getting a Harley-Davidson carb tonight. That should work just fine!
We got our first-ever Alfa Romeo 164, though we were forced to hammer it with BS Penalty laps for being cheaty even by our lenient standards for Italian machinery.
This team had some good costumes to go with their Kermit-The-Frog-ized RX-7.
This Pabst Blue Ribbon-themed Maxima was fairly entertaining.
But the wolf-drinking-rainbow-PBR mural will probably give me nightmares.
The Little Douche Coupe is back, with Funny Car god Cruz Pedregon on the team and ready to fry the clutch and/or brakes as needed.
We’ve stopped worrying so much about a cheaty BMW E36 running away with the race, because it turns out that the E30′s successor is actually quite slow and unreliable on a road course.
The Wisconsin contingent is in full effect, with some of the delicacies peculiar to their far-off land (though we’re still waiting for someone from Racine to bring us a Pecan Kringle).

I was too busy to photograph all the cars that passed through the LeMons Supreme Court’s clutches during the day, but my timelapse camera sees all. Here’s a day of inspections compressed into a few minutes. Check in tomorrow for race updates!
LIL11-BSInsp-01 LIL11-BSInsp-02 LIL11-BSInsp-03 LIL11-BSInsp-04 LIL11-BSInsp-05 LIL11-BSInsp-06 LIL11-BSInsp-07 LIL11-BSInsp-08 LIL11-BSInsp-09 LIL11-BSInsp-10 LIL11-BSInsp-11 LIL11-BSInsp-12 LIL11-BSInsp-13 LIL11-BSInsp-14 LIL11-BSInsp-15 LIL11-BSInsp-16 LIL11-BSInsp-17 LIL11-BSInsp-18 LIL11-BSInsp-19 LIL11-BSInsp-20 LIL11-BSInsp-21 LIL11-BSInsp-22 LIL11-BSInsp-23 LIL11-BSInsp-24 LIL11-BSInsp-25 LIL11-BSInsp-26 LIL11-BSInsp-27 LIL11-BSInsp-28 LIL11-BSInsp-29 LIL11-BSInsp-30 LIL11-BSInsp-31 LIL11-BSInsp-32 LIL11-BSInsp-33 LIL11-BSInsp-34 LIL11-BSInsp-35 LIL11-BSInsp-36 LIL11-BSInsp-37 LIL11-BSInsp-38 LIL11-BSInsp-39 LIL11-BSInsp-40 LIL11-BSInsp-41 LIL11-BSInsp-42 LIL11-BSInsp-43 LIL11-BSInsp-44 LIL11-BSInsp-45 LIL11-BSInsp-46 LIL11-BSInsp-47 LIL11-BSInsp-48 LIL11-BSInsp-49 LIL11-BSInsp-50 LIL11-BSInsp-51 LIL11-BSInsp-52 LIL11-BSInsp-53 LIL11-BSInsp-54 LIL11-BSInsp-55 LIL11-BSInsp-56 LIL11-BSInsp-57 LIL11-BSInsp-58 LIL11-BSInsp-59 LIL11-BSInsp-60 LIL11-BSInsp-61 LIL11-BSInsp-62 LIL11-BSInsp-63 LIL11-BSInsp-64 LIL11-BSInsp-65 LIL11-BSInsp-66 LIL11-BSInsp-67 LIL11-BSInsp-68 LIL11-BSInsp-69 LIL11-BSInsp-70 LIL11-BSInsp-71 LIL11-BSInsp-72 LIL11-BSInsp-73 LIL11-BSInsp-74 LIL11-BSInsp-75 LIL11-BSInsp-76 LIL11-BSInsp-77 LIL11-BSInsp-78 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Chicago Tribune: No Probation For “Extreme Speeders” Mon, 22 Mar 2010 21:15:44 +0000

Enforcing laws against victimless crimes is never easy. Limited resources force local governments to constantly assess their law-enforcement priorities, assigning the squad cars and jail beds to the most pressing problems facing their jurisdiction. The problems that don’t make the cut? Unless there’s a revenue motive at play (see: red light cameras, speed cameras), local law enforcement often has little choice but to tolerate the breaking, or under-enforcement of certain laws. Which begs the question: on a scale of, say, murder to marijuana possession, just how bad is speeding?

It’s a question that the fair city of Chicago is grappling with right now, following an investigative report by the Tribune that shows:

For hundreds of motorists caught driving that fast every year, court supervision helps keep their insurance rates low while stopping officials from using the tickets as a reason to suspend their licenses… A Tribune analysis of state police tickets, license data and court records shows that since 2006, Chicagoland courts have given supervision to nearly two-thirds of those found guilty of driving 100 mph or faster.

The implication: citizens of Chicago can speed with impunity. But then, what motorist sees speed limits as being as important as, say, laws against theft or assault? Luckily, the Trib’s exposé isn’t about legal theory, or even the devastating effects of unpunished speeding… it’s pure political gotcha.

Judges across the area defended supervision as a helpful alternative to conviction, but some were surprised at how often their peers handed it out. Also surprised was the state’s keeper of driving records: Secretary of State Jesse White. Citing the Tribune’s findings, White now wants to ban supervision for extreme speeders.

Not because the state doesn’t have bigger law-enforcement priorities, or because road deaths are disproportionately due to speeders (winter conditions and drunk drivers are the big killers on area roads). Or because serial supervision-receivers aren’t being targeted (a 2005 law forbids more than two supervisions per driver per year). The IIHS’s Russ Rader does bring up a good point when he argues that “a lot of what these (supervision) programs effectively do is hide the records of careless, reckless drivers.” But what neither he, nor the now on-the-warpath White want to face are the real reasons for the popularity of the court supervision program for speeders. A local judge explains:

Some judges do 7,000 cases a month, and you have municipalities who are as interested in revenue as they are in a conviction.

Ah, the old “R” word. In addition to community service and a probationary period, court supervision usually involves a larger fine than might otherwise be levied. In essence, it’s a plea deal that pays for itself (if you speed often enough) by keeping a conviction from running up your insurance premium. The court brings in revenue, and drivers caught breaking a law that every citizen breaks at least once if they drive often enough, get to move on with their lives. Where’s the problem?

White will try to change that. Based on the Tribune’s findings, his office helped draft a bill last week to ban supervision for people going at least 40 mph over the speed limit. Because most area interstates have 55 mph limits, it would cover the vast majority of the area’s triple-digit speeders.

“No driver has any business driving that rate of speed,” said White spokesman Henry Haupt.

Note that he didn’t say “no driver is capable of safely driving at that rate of speed.” This is acutally important, considering that the Tribune caps off its politician-riling muckraking with a fittingly inapplicable example:

In July 2008, Johnson’s Lexus sped past a trooper at 110 mph while weaving along I-57 near Dixmoor, before exiting and hitting 105 mph on a side street. Police said his blood-alcohol level was 0.120, which is 50 percent higher than the legal limit.

In the eight previous years, Johnson had received five supervisions on six speeding tickets.

Still, a judge waived the state-mandated six-month driver suspension for the DUI arrest. Then another judge gave the Bourbonnais man supervision for two years. Illinois law allows supervision for a first-time DUI. In exchange, Johnson agreed to pay $1,035 in fines and promised to follow the law.

But in June 2009, while on supervision, Johnson was clocked at 100 mph on I-57 in Markham. He never showed up in court and remains missing. To date, no judge has revoked the court-approved supervision for his high-speed DUI.

You see, the problem isn’t the non-enforcement of DUI laws, it’s the non-enforcement of speeding laws. Johnson shouldn’t have received supervision because he was driving over 100 mph, not because he was drunk off his face. Good thing we have newspapers like the Chicago Tribune to set our law-enforcement priorities straight. And good thing we have politicians as spineless as White to be cowed into embarrassed, unthinking knee-jerk reactions. Otherwise the good people of Chicago might think that speeding isn’t always necessarily an endangerment of others, and is therefore a less urgent law enforcement priority than, say, driving drunk. And God help us if that ever happens.

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