The bill was proposed after years of attempts by Chicago community members to get the Chicago Park District to install life rings along Lake Michigan. Last summer, people from the Rogers Park neighborhood started installing their own life rings on a pier, which were repeatedly removed by Park District employees.
"This past summer was the last straw. We had another drowning. This young man was six feet from the pier. If we'd had a life ring, he'd be alive today," State Rep Kelly Cassidy, the House sponsor of the bill, said.
She said that the new leadership of Chicago Park District is working to make sure that life rings are available this summer, before swim season and before the new law even goes into effect.
"I am very aware of the power of the lake and the tragedies that can occur," Cassidy said.
House Bill 4165 also establishes tracking and reporting requirements for local governments that own a pier or drop-off on Lake Michigan. Nationally, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children under the age of 5, the second leading cause for children under 15, and the third leading cause for people under 30. There are significant disparities between Black and white populations in drowning death rates, with African American males from ages 15 to 19 facing the highest per-capita rates of drowning.