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The People v. Warren





APPEAL from the County Court of St. Clair County; the Hon. WILLIAM P. FLEMING, Judge, presiding.


Cecil Warren, plaintiff in error, was charged with and fined $50 for violating the provisions of section 121.02 of the Uniform Act Regulating Traffic on Highways. This section was amended July 15, 1955. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1955, chap. 95 1/2, par. 218b.) He appeals directly to this court, and we have jurisdiction because the sole question presented is the constitutionality of the section which reads as follows:

"It is unlawful for any person to operate any new motor vehicle of the second division which is purchased on and after September 1, 1955, or any motor vehicle of the second division the splash guards of which have been replaced on and after September 1, 1955, which replacement shall be necessary when present splash guards are unable to prevent the splashing of mud or water upon the windshield of other motor vehicles, upon the highways of this State outside the corporate limits of a city, village or incorporated town, unless such vehicle is equipped with rear fender splash guards which shall comply with the specifications as hereinafter provided and such splash guards shall be so attached as to prevent the splashing of mud or water upon the windshield of other motor vehicles; provided, that on and after January 1, 1957, this amendatory Act of 1955 shall apply to all motor vehicles of the second division.

"The rear fender splash guards shall contour the wheel in such manner that the relationship of the inside surface of any such splash guard to the tread surface of the tire or wheel shall be relatively parallel, both laterally and across the wheel, at least throughout the top 90 degrees of the rear 180 degrees of the wheel surface and the downward extension of the curved surface shall extend to a length which shall end not more than ten inches from the ground.

"Such splash guards shall be wide enough to cover the full trend [sic] or treads of the tires being protected and shall be installed close enough to the tread surface of the tire or wheel as to control the side-throw or wash of the bulk of the thrown road surface material and keep such bulk within a tangent not to exceed 15 degrees measured from a base line formed by the top height of the wheel.

"Such splash guards may be constructed of a flexible material, but shall be attached in such a manner that, regardless of movement, either in such splash guards or the vehicle, such splash guards will retain their general parallel relationship to the tread surface of the tire or wheel under all ordinary operating conditions.

"This Section shall not apply to motor vehicles whose construction does not require such splash guards, nor to motor vehicles in transit and capable only of using temporary splash guards approved by the Illinois State Highway Police."

The validity of this section is challenged on grounds which we shall hereinafter consider separately. The motor vehicle in question is one of the second division — vehicles designed and used for pulling or carrying freight and also vehicles or motor cars which are designed and used for carrying more than seven persons. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1955, chap. 95 1/2, par. 99.) No controverted fact questions are involved.

Every presumption is in favor of the validity of a statute enacted under the police power. (Gadlin v. Auditor of Public Accounts, 414 Ill. 89, 95; Zelney v. Murphy, 387 Ill. 492, 499; Thillens, Inc. v. Hodge, 2 Ill.2d 45, 57.) The only limitations upon the legislature in the exercise of its police power is that the statute must reasonably tend to correct some evil or promote some interest of the State and not violate some positive mandate of the constitution. (Clarke v. Storchak, 384 Ill. 564, 579; People ex rel. Christiansen v. Connell, 2 Ill.2d 332, 344.) The General Assembly has a wide discretion in the enactment of laws for the protection of the public health, safety and morals or the promotion of the general welfare and such statutes are valid when they apply accordingly and uniformly to all persons similarly situated. (City of Chicago v. Rhine, 363 Ill. 619, 624; Weksler v. Collins, 317 Ill. 132, 138.) In the exercise of its inherent police power the legislature may enact laws regulating, restraining or prohibiting anything harmful to the welfare of the people, even though such regulation, restraint or prohibition interferes with the liberty or property of an individual. Bode v. Barrett, 412 Ill. 204, 225; City of Evanston v. Wazau, 364 Ill. 198, 202; Fenske Bros., Inc. v. Upholsterers Union, 358 Ill. 239, 251; People v. Anderson, 355 Ill. 289, 296.

No person has the right to conduct a business upon the public highways or to devote them to private gain except as the State, by acquiescence or by law, may permit it. (Hayes Freight Lines, Inc. v. Castle, 2 Ill.2d 58, 64; Bode v. Barrett, 412 Ill. 204, 219; Weksler v. Collins, 317 Ill. 132, 139, 142.) If the means be appropriate, the ultimate aim of safeguarding life, health and property upon the highways is clearly within the power of the General Assembly. The legislature may properly enact such a law even though it may interfere with the property of an individual; the overriding consideration being that the safety of the people is paramount to the unfettered use by an individual of his property. Bode v. Barrett, 412 Ill. 204, 225.

The measure of the reasonableness of a police regulation is not necessarily what is best but what is fairly appropriate to the purpose of the act under all circumstances. (Keig Stevens Baking Co. v. City of Savanna, 380 Ill. 303, 309; Weksler v. Collins, 317 Ill. 132, 141.) The rapid progress of science and invention has created and is constantly creating new needs for regulation by law. Powerful machines, capable of inflicting death, bodily injury and destruction of property, traverse the arteries of traffic at speeds which, if unregulated, would add to the already frightening total of highway casualties. Chapter 95 1/2, of Illinois Revised Statutes, 1955, contains the various legislative acts making up the motor vehicle law. No reasonable person would question not only the right but the absolute duty of the legislature to imposed these regulations upon those who use the streets and roads of the State. All these regulations, including even prohibitions which stand in substantial relationship to the public welfare, must be presumed by the courts to be necessary for the purpose of protecting public health, safety and morals, and must be sustained under the police power of the State.

In the present case plaintiff in error does not question the right of the legislature to provide for and regulate the use of splash guards on motor vehicles. He poses only the question whether the legislature has properly exercised its power by the adoption of the section of the statute under attack in its present form. Tested by the rules of constitutional interpretation alluded to above, we find no merit in the contention that the provisions of that section are unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious. The splashing of water or mud upon the windshields of other vehicles on the road is an evil which the legislature rightfully aims to correct. We can give no weight to the contention of the plaintiff in error that the "mud flaps" which were required upon all trucks under the 1951 statute are to be preferred as more simple and inexpensive. It is within the power of the legislature to solve safety problems, by whatever means it deems best, so long as such means reasonably tend to correct the evil. Since this police regulation is fairly appropriate to the expressed purpose of the statute, it is immaterial so far as the court is concerned, whether it is the best possible means or is inferior to the 1951 enactment which it supplants.

The claim that this statute is "impossible of construction" and "requires the doing of an act in terms so vague that men of common intelligence must necessarily guess at their meaning," is equally without merit. The requirements and specifications for the splash guards are intelligible and ascertainable and the standards for their implementation are ...

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