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Mount Carroll, a small, close-knit northwestern Illinois community, endured a nightmarish grain-elevator farm accident last summer that killed two teenage workers, Alex Pacas, 19, and Wyatt Whitebread, just 14, and injured 20-year-old Will Piper. The high school and college students were engulfed by corn inside an elevator owned by Haasbach LLC, and the two who died suffocated under 30 feet of corn.

The rescue effort gives an idea of the magnitude of the fatal mass of corn. Emergency workers had to cut holes in the sides of the grain elevator, releasing thousands of pounds of corn that were removed by semi trucks to another storage location.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration heavily regulates safety practices in most grain handling facilities. OSHA specifically prohibits employees from "walking down grain" defined as "where an employee walks on grain to make it flow within or out from a grain storage structure, or where an employee is on moving grain." The regulations include corn within their definition of "grain."

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Last month, the students of Glenwood High School in Chatham, Illinois witnessed a surprise mock car crash a few days before their school's senior prom was to take place. The staged crash was meant to educate the youth by showing them the deadly consequences of driving drunk or driving distracted.

The "crash" included a few students acting as passengers who had been out drinking after their prom. The teen acting as the driver of the car was checking a text message on his phone when he crashed into a family's SUV.

The mock car accident resulted in two fake fatalities and two pretend victims were left with critical injuries. The production played out as a real crash would, with the arrival of a bystander, local police, ambulances, fire trucks and even a helicopter for one of the victims to receive medical attention.

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It may soon become illegal not to wear a safety belt while sitting in the back seat of a vehicle in Illinois. The Illinois Senate sent the legislation to Governor Pat Quinn on May 27th to be signed into law.

Current laws in Illinois only require passengers under 19 years of age to wear seat belts in the back seat. All occupants in the front seat must wear seat belts. If the bill is passed, there would be exclusions including the back seats of limos, taxis and emergency vehicles.

The legislation became important to sponsor State Representative Michael Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) when he heard the story of a local widow, Paula Doren.

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Illinois State Police have been targeting distracted drivers in a campaign called Operation Safe Star. The campaign was declared May 6th, a year after state trooper Starlena Wilson was struck and almost killed by a woman who was reading a text message while driving.

Operation Safe Star is in honor of Starlena Wilson's injuries, and an effort by troopers to reduce the number of motor vehicle accidents on Illinois roadways. Starlena Wilson is also one of the founders of the recent campaign "Drive Now. Text Later." Illinois officials claim that the idea for the campaign came to them after an online survey showed that 40 percent of drivers on the state's tollways were not aware that e-mailing and texting while driving in Illinois are illegal.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nationwide there are over 800,000 drivers on the road using a hand-held cell phone at any time during the day.

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In the final hours of the spring legislative session, the Illinois House passed legislation overhauling Illinois' workers' compensation system.

Reform of Illinois' workers' compensation system had been an issue of debate for quite some time. After passing in the Senate, the workers compensation package initially failed in the House by a 55-39 vote, but after significant political lobbying the measure surprisingly passed 62-43.

The Background of the Controversy

For years, businesses have lamented the stifling effect they believe Illinois' expensive workers' compensation setup is having on local economic growth. Illinois has the second highest costs for treating injured employees in the country, and according to some, this means many businesses are choosing to create jobs elsewhere.

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