Troy Shirrell said he had just gotten off work at The Elms nursing home on Friday evening, August 10, 2018. He was riding his Harley Davidson Wide Glide on East Jackson Street in Macomb.
“And the next thing I know – it happened so fast I didn’t even see it – but I felt something hit me and I flew through the air and bounced off the pavement, and next thing I know I got a bunch of people around me,” Shirrell said.
A distracted driver had slammed into him.
Macomb Police Officer Troy Shoudel is one of the people who gathered around Shirrell at the accident scene. Shirrell said, “I was bleeding out and Officer Shoudel took my belt off and used it for a tourniquet and basically saved my life.”
Shirrell said he broke all his ribs and his femur, and he lost his lower left leg. “It was just so mangled that there was no saving it.”
He said he has had “a heck of time” recovering. He spent ten months in a wheelchair. He got a prosthetic leg a couple months ago and had to relearn how to walk.
“It’s still an adjustment. I’m exercising and working out, trying to do what I can. But every aspect of my life now is a thinking process, even simple things,” Shirrell said.
“At least I’m still alive to talk about it, so that’s the main thing. It’s slow, but I’m getting back there.”
State Representative Norine Hammond (R-Macomb) said she followed Shirrell’s recovery on social media. She said it convinced her that the state should impose stiffer penalties on those who text and drive.
Hammond said the penalty was just $75, which she called a slap on the wrist. Hammond said the bill she sponsored (HB 2386) calls for those convicted of distracted driving and causing an accident that leads to great bodily harm, permanent disability, or disfigurement to be fined a minimum of $1,000 and have their license suspended for one year.
“I faced a little bit of opposition from some of my colleagues that said, ‘That’s way too high, that’s way too much money,’” said Hammond during a brief presentation at Chandler Park in Macomb.
“And I said, ‘Really? What’s a limb worth to you? Better yet, what’s a life worth to you?’”
Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the bill into law. During the Chandler Park presentation, Hammond gave Shirrell a copy of the bill that she said included the following message from the governor:
“Troy, you are an inspiration. This is an important law, and you are the reason others will now be protected.”
The law takes effect July 1, 2020.
Shirrell said he hopes the new law convinces people to stay off their phones while driving.
“You’re putting people’s lives in danger over a simple message. And I know we keep hearing that and hearing that. But right here I’m living it,” he said.
“I’m hobbling around on a prosthetic for the rest of my life because of a text message. So I’m hoping it wakes some people up.”
The Distracted Driver
McDonough County State’s Attorney Matt Kwacala said he applauds the new law. But he emphasized the driver who struck Shirrell was never charged with just distracted driving.
Kwacala said Matthew Cummings, 36, of Macomb was originally charged with Aggravated Use of an Electronic Communication Device. And when blood tests found heroin and fentanyl in Cummings’ system, he was charged with Aggravated Driving Under the Influence.
Cummings was arrested in late September, 2018. He has remained in the McDonough County Jail since then.
Kwacala said Cummings was found guilty of the DUI charge in July and will be sentenced in October. He faces one-to-twelve years in prison. Kwacala said 85% of the sentence must be served.