Would the Illinois bill prohibit pictures like this one from Maryland's Beltway? Maybe or maybe not.
This morning two STATter911.com readers sent me articles from Illinois that, on the surface, look like overkill or a politician's cover for a different agenda. Reading the news coverage it gives you the impression that Rep. Tom Holbrook, a Democrat from Belleville, was able to get a bill past an Illinois House committee that would ban most picture taking within 500 feet of an accident scene.
According to the news coverage, Holbrook believes amateur photographers are just getting in the way of emergency personnel. The law maker described it this way to WBBM Radio in Chicago, “Putting your cell phone over the firemen’s shoulders as he’s using the jaws of life, maybe to get your grandmother of the front seat of her car while she’s bleeding.”
There is no doubt that there are a large number of cameras at emergency scenes these days carried by both the first responders and the public. And members of each group have done stupid things with those cameras. I pointed one out recently where a driver rode past a bunch of police cars on the shoulder of the road and under a burning overpass on the Capital Beltway in Maryland while his passenger shot video of the truck engulfed in flames that was the source of the fire. Stupid, stupid stuff.
My first reaction was this law would fight stupidity with stupidity. Lawmakers willing to solve a problem that has many other remedies by launching an assault on the First Amendment (and Mr. Holbrook I don't think the public is putting cameras on the shoulders of firefighters … yet). The Supreme Court just ruled 8 to 1 on Wednesday that those vicious idiots from the Westboro Baptist Church have the right to protest at military funerals (as much as it hurts, the Supreme Court is right), yet the Illinois lawmakers want to ban taking pictures of a scene that is in public view. Something isn't right here.
But wait, that may not be the case and if what I am finding online about this bill is correct, this may make perfect sense.
(Hold on here. Has Dave lost his mind? The man who always defends the rights of those scumbag news photographers thinks it's okay to ban picture taking? Read on folks.)
Looking at the Illinois General Assembly website I find one bill by Tom Holbrook that somewhat fits this description. It is titled "VEH CD-ACCIDENTS:NO CELL PHNES". Here's the summary:
Amends the Illinois Vehicle Code. Provides that no person may use a wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle within 500 feet of an emergency scene except for specified purposes. Adds digital photographs and video to the definition of "electronic message" in provisions prohibiting the use of electronic communication devices while operating a motor vehicle. Effective immediately.
What I am getting from this is they want to ban the operator of a motor vehicle from taking pictures while driving when approaching an incident. Am I wrong in my interpretation? Doesn't seem to prohibit the passenger or anyone else from snapping away.
That appears to be quite a different animal from what is implied in the news coverage. I guess if you already are restricting cell phone use while driving, limiting picture taking by the driver isn't that bad of an idea. Seems it will increase safety for first responders, if nothing else.
Now, I admit my limited investigation of this may be missing some important facts. It could be my reporting that is suspect and not the articles from Illinois. But that's what I have so far. We will keep you informed if there is actually more to this and another bill that is a bit more sinister.