Sneed exclusive: Change in law blamed for drop in texting tickets

SHARE Sneed exclusive: Change in law blamed for drop in texting tickets

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson cites a 2015 change in the law for the steep dropoff in traffic tickets for using mobile devices while driving. | For the Sun-Times

Fasten your seat belt.

It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

Sneed’s story last week of the dramatic dip in Chicago traffic citations for the improper use of mobile devices may have been a stunner, but brake on the reason why.

The law was changed.

And cops were ditching traffic court.

Let’s back up.

According to Chicago Police Department statistics obtained by Sneed, there were only 168 Chicago traffic citations for mobile impropriety — compared with 45,672 two years earlier.

It caused Ald. Edward Burke (14th) to call for an investigation of the shocker.

“Something happened,” said Burke, who requested an answer from Police Supt. Eddie Johnson — who tells Sneed he was also shocked at the statistics.

“So I called in our department heads for answers and we are doing everything we can to rectify the situation,” Johnson told Sneed.

“Texting and using a handheld mobile device while driving is toxic, illegal and frequently deadly,” said Burke, who claimed Sneed’s disclosure of the precipitous drop in traffic tickets issued since 2016 by the CPD for the improper use of mobile devices had the police department scrambling.

“The CPD is suddenly acknowledging the enforcement of one of the most serious epidemics in America,” Burke added.

Ironically, the Chicago Law Department — which should know the reason for the statistical ticket dip — has yet to give Sneed an answer.

So here’s the deal.


“Prior to 2015, we were writing tickets for distracted driving on what was known as ANOV citations [Administrative Notice of Ordinance Violation],” Johnson said.

“It didn’t require police officers to come to court,” he told Sneed. “People either paid their ticket via mail or went to an administrative office outside of traffic court to contest it.

“So here is what I found out.

“Sometime in mid-2015, the state law changed regarding the issuance of ANOV citations involving distracted drivers, which meant we could no longer issue them that way; they had to be issued along with a moving traffic violation — which required police officers to go to traffic court.

“Then the city passed an ordinance to come into compliance with state law.

“After that point, the only way to ticket for distracted driving had to be accompanied with moving in traffic on a cellphone, and it required an appearance at traffic court, where it is hard to find parking spaces,” Johnson said.

“I think police officers stopped writing them because it is a hassle, and most of them don’t like going to traffic court for a lot of reasons,” he added.

“We’ve got to find a way to make it more convenient for a police officer to go to court by either relocating traffic court or researching the violation to see if we can return it to an ANOV citation.”

“I was shocked to see the drop in tickets was so severe. So we have to figure it out,” Johnson said.

“Our best method is to keep the public safe.”

A call to arms . . . 

A plea by four Chicago aldermen (all former Chicago cops) — as well as new Fraternal Order of Police chief Kevin Graham — to speed CPD certification to carry military-style assault weapons (long guns), is endorsed by top cop Eddie Johnson.

“We are looking at ways to increase the capacity to certify officers who want to carry these guns — and I might add there are quite a few,” Johnson told Sneed.

The Quinn bin . . .

Former Gov. Pat Quinn is about to unveil his big surprise.

His portrait.

Former Gov. Pat Quin. | Sun-Times files

Former Gov. Pat Quinn is paying for his interactive portrait that is going to hang in the Governor’s Mansion. | Sun-Times file photo

A self-proclaimed “extraordinary” portrait that will hang in the State Capitol’s Hall of Governors along with all of the state’s former governors.

So why so extraordinary?

Why so different?

Why so unusual?

Well, it’s interactive!

“I would describe it as a true 21st century portrait,” Quinn said.

“Which is hooked up to a website!”

Click on Quinn’s legendary purple and black-striped tie and you’ll see him signing an important piece of legislation into law.

Click on his legendary green pencil stubs and clipboard and bingo, a bit of video history pops up.

“I think it’s safe to say this portrait contains the most found items in any painting,” Quinn chirped.

Quinn commissioned artist Bill Chambers, who did the portraits of governors Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar, to do it several years ago.

“But I wanted something different,” Quinn said. “So we decided to make it interactive. I’ve been posing on and off for the past two years. I hope to encourage civics teachers to take a look at the forty-four interactive ‘found items’ on the website [].

“And, I might add, I paid for it,” he said.

“I’m the first governor to do so.”

It’s so very Quinn.

Alas, “Betsy,” Quinn’s trusty decades-old briefcase, did not make the portrait cut.

Please note: The portrait will be officially unveiled at 1:30 p.m. Monday in the State Capitol in Springfield at a very special ceremony.

Bring your clickers.

P.S. The only governor’s portrait not to hang in the State Capitol is that of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is still in prison.

Sneedlings . . .

Saturday’s birthdays: George Clooney, 56; Chris Paul, 32; and Willie Mays, 86. . . . Sunday’s birthdays: Chiara Ferragni, 30; Earl Thomas, 28; and Alexander Ludwig, 25.

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