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Monday, January 18, 2010

UPDATE: Matt Wilhelm's parents on Oprah

UPDATED (JAN. 18): The parents of Matt Wilhelm. the Champaign-Urbana area cyclist who was killed in 2006 when he was struck by a car driven by a woman downloading cell phone ring tones, appeared on today's episode of Oprah Winfrey's TV show.

Gloria and Chuck Wilhelm briefly described how their son died and how they worked to get Illinois laws changed, culminating in the texting ban that went into effect Jan. 1.

"If you get a ticket, you can blame it on us because we were the ones who went to Springfield to work with the senators," Gloria said on the show.

You can see the video of the Wilhelms and other families who lost loved ones in accidents involving distracted drivers at Oprah's Web site.

Oprah launched her "No Phone Zone" campaign on Monday's show. According to an Associated Press story last week, Oprah said she wants people to know "how absolutely stupid it is that we continue to text and drive." She's asking drivers to take a pledge to avoidt text-messaging or talking on cell phones while driving.

Oprah's show is aired at 4 p.m. CST on KSDK-TV, Channel 5, in St. Louis and WCIA-TV, Channel 3, in Champaign-Urbana. You can check where the show appears in your area here.

Matt Wilhelm's death prompted some changes, including better education about cyclists' right to the road and a task force that recommended more laws to protect users of Illinois highway. While progress has been made, more progress needs to be done, including laws that would make it a felony if a distracted driver kills or critically injuries a cyclist, pedestrian or motorist.

You can see a public service announcement about Matt at the News-Gazette.

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