New Ill. drug, traffic and safety laws take effect

The Illinois General Assembly was busy this past year approving 214 laws, ranging from increasing seat belt usage and allowing bicyclists and motorcyclists to go through red lights to properly disposing of old electronics and banning synthetic marijuana.

“Some of the new laws are tweaks to existing laws, and while there is always worry about too much lawmaking, these laws are for the benefit of the general public,” said State Sen. Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove. “Some are to protect children, some are senior-based, but they are all related to segments of our society.”

h2. Synthetic marijuana

As of Jan. 1, the possession or sale of synthetic marijuana products such as K2, Head Trip and Black Mamba is now banned and is punishable with up to 30 years in prison.

Captain Skip Frost of the University police department said students are having adverse reactions to these substances, including many behavior issues that mirror psychotic episodes. For instance, one student under the influence of synthetic marijuana was found without any clothes on.

“We will enforce it fairly and firmly and as much as any other law because that is what we are mandated to do,” Frost said.

He added that University police will be actively making arrests as they would for normal marijuana cases.

h2. Seat belts

Another law going into effect is the new seat belt law. It requires all passengers in a vehicle to wear seat belts, and failure to comply could result in a $25 fine. This is an amendment to a previous law that did not require passengers over age 16 to wear seat belts in the back seat.

According to Sandack, drivers who do not make their passengers buckle up will be pulled over similar to a speeding violation. He said while the law may be aggressive, it is important for everyone to recognize that seat belts can save lives.

h2. Running red lights

Another law is one that allows bicyclists and motorcyclists to go through red lights after waiting two minutes.

“It is easy to make it sound like bicyclists and motorcyclists can run red lights, but they are supposed to treat it like a stop sign,” said Ed Barsotti, executive director for Champaign County Bikes. “They must stop and wait for two minutes and then continue if it is safe to do so.”

Bicycles and motorcycles do not weigh enough to set off stoplight sensors, so bicyclists and motorcyclists are often faced with the decision of going through the red light illegally or waiting long periods of time for a car to come and activate the sensor.

He said the law solves a technical problem, but it would be more beneficial if standards for sensors were developed to detect bikes and motorcycles so it would not be a problem in the first place.

h2. Electronics recycling

Students may also want to think twice before dumping old electronics in the trash.

“Wasting electronics is a part of our society, and people are not really aware of the societal impacts that are caused when we do not recycle,” said Joy Scrogum, Illinois Sustainable Technology Center spokeswoman.

In response to escalating hazards, the state has expanded the Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act which outlaws throwing away 13 products, including television sets, laptops, printers, computer keyboards, DVD players and digital music players.

Students can recycle old electronics at retail stores or look for recycling days in their communities. They take place approximately four times a year in Champaign County.

Many people are worried that some of the new laws charge Illinois residents with excessive fines.

“This is a legitimate argument, but they are not revenue-based,” Sandack said.

He said the state of Illinois does have a budget problem, and some of the new laws will raise revenue, but that it is not the main priority. They are geared toward the safety, health and welfare of residents, he added.