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2016 Illinois Judicial Elections

The judicial evaluation process is an in depth and impartial assessment of each judicial candidate.  In Cook County, here is the process that is followed.

  • ElectionFirst, each candidate is asked to file a detailed disclosure form of approximately 20 pages.
  • Then an investigator is assigned to each candidate, who contacts random people listed and not listed on the candidate’s disclosure form and gathers information about the candidate’s background, legal knowledge and skills, integrity, and demeanor.
  • Next a panel of 10 to 15 lawyers review the disclosure form, the investigator’s report, and conduct an in person interview of each judicial candidate.
  • From being involved in this process, I can tell you that the candidates, investigators, and panelists take this process seriously.
  • The panel then makes a recommendation.

As you can see from the recommendations, not all judicial candidates are considered qualified to hold the important office of judge.

Please take this opportunity to access the judicial evaluations available from the Illinois State Bar Association, and use them to cast an informed ballot for your/our judges in this upcoming judicial election on November 8, 2016.  Thank you.

Remember not to take voting selfies with your Illinois ballot!

Additionally, if you or anyone you know needs to contact a personal injury lawyer, contact the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. today for a free consultation!

Mount Prospect: Driver Involved in Bicyclist Death Faces New Charges

Mount ProspectIn June, a driver struck and killed a 55-year old woman riding her bicycle in Mount Prospect. Police revealed that the woman who was driving the car was the person who caused the collision. But they also claim that the bicyclist contributed to the crash as well. Shortly after the accident, concerns raised about the safety of crosswalk beacons that the bicyclist used to cross. This new crosswalk has caused people to question the safety benefits of crosswalk beacons.

Crosswalk Beacons

In order to make a busy crosswalk safer for pedestrians, the city of Mount Prospect installed a crosswalk beacon. Just months after the installation, a driver struck and killed a bicycler in Mount Prospect on this crosswalk. Irregardless, these beacons continue to pop up more and more all across Illinois. Crossing beacons are installed on traffic signal poles with regulatory warning signs to try to alert the driver of a crosswalk when the driver approaches the crosswalk. This allows drivers to know that pedestrians might be present so that drivers can slow down and stop for pedestrians to cross. To activate the beacon, the pedestrian presses a button and drivers are alerted that a pedestrian will cross.

Benefits of a Crosswalk Beacon

2750714149_36a7b7bfe0_bOn paper, beacons seem to benefit pedestrians who are attempting to cross a crosswalk. A study revealed that, at crossings with no beacons, drivers yielded to only 18% of pedestrians, but when beacons were present, drivers yielded over 80% of the time. Additionally, these beacons

  • increase driver compliance with the law and drivers stop completely at these crosswalks,
  • cause drivers to become aware of pedestrians, and
  • increase the flow of traffic since drivers do not have to stop if no pedestrians are present.

New Charges Against the Driver

Initially, the driver in the accident was charged with failing to reduce speed to avoid an accident. The driver allegedly drove without corrective lenses and that the driver allegedly improperly passed a vehicle stopped at a crosswalk. The police have also indicated that a state traffic law says a pedestrian should not enter the roadway when another vehicle is dangerously close. The victim’s wife responded to this allegation calling the police’s words slanderous, irresponsible, and insulting. Her family states that the bicycler activated the warning signals, waited for vehicles to stop before crossing on the crosswalk, but then was struck as she got to the middle.

Is There Another Safer Option Besides Crosswalk Beacons?

Another option exists for those who question the effectiveness of crosswalk beacons: another type of crosswalk signal. Commonly known as a pedestrian hybrid beacon, this beacon could fix some of the problems that regular traffic beacons have failed to reconcile. This device hangs over the road and is dark until a pedestrian activates the device by pressing a button. Once the pedestrian presses the button, the device emits a yellow warning light to alert drivers of the presence of a pedestrian. Then the beacon turns red, which would force drivers to stop. Therefore, the pedestrian can safely cross the road. A study conducted in Texas and Arizona found that 96% of drivers stopped with this type of cross walk signal.

What Drivers Must Do 

Since a new traffic signal will require action in Mount Prospect and state legislature’s part, drivers must start making changes today. Drivers should pay attention to

  • the traffic beacons that are currently in place, and
  • always stop completely at them, even if no pedestrians appear to be present.

Especially since school has begun, drivers should be aware of little children that might be harder to see than an adult. Most importantly, drivers should always yield the right of way to pedestrians.

How to Avoid Bicycle Accidents as a Driver

  • Recognize that bicyclists the right of way. Bicyclists have all the rights of drivers of cars and trucks,
  • Pay close attention to the road and check for bicyclers before entering an intersection.
  • Before backing out of your driveway, check for any young children riding their bikes by the end of your driveway,
  • Give bicyclists enough room when you pass them.

Car Insurance Rates Increase With Accidents


Got Car Insurance?Everyone has car insurance. Or at least the law requires everyone to have car insurance. But no one wants to use their car insurance! After a car accident, the driver files a claim with the insurance company if he or she wants to be reimbursed for the damages. Yet, when the damage is minor, a lot of drivers try to avoid filing minor claims. They fear a claim will trigger a higher premium for their car insurance.

Recently, analysts tied the rise in car insurance rates to an increase in accident rates. They point to distracted driving and drowsy driving as the cause. These conditions have led not only to higher insurance premiums, but also many fatalities. Drivers absolutely need to pay closer attention to the road when behind the wheel. [Read more…]

Forfeited Property: A Police Department’s Secret Stash of Money?


Forfeited PropertyWhen property, such as automobiles, money, houses, and other assets, are taken by the police during the course of an investigation, the state has the option to keep the property or money that has been seized. If the police believe that the forfeited property or money is somehow tied to a crime, then the state can move the court to keep the forfeited property. This process is known as civil forfeiture, and the proceeds from the sale are split between the state’s attorney’s office and the Illinois State Police, and the police have full discretion to decide how the money is used. The Chicago Police Department has made millions of dollars since 2009 selling forfeited property that has been seized from residents in Chicago through civil forfeiture. [Read more…]

Red-Light Cameras: Do They Prevent Deadly Accidents?


Red-lights CamerasMost people cringe when they hear the phrase “red-light cameras.” Likely, they received a ticket in the mail from a red-light camera.  It is safe to say that people rarely have anything good to say about red-light cameras. Some have alleged that the cameras are an invasion of privacy. However, public opinion toward red light cameras may begin to shift for the better. A recent study found that getting rid of red-light cameras may have fatal consequences.

Red-light cameras: saving lives?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that red light cameras saved about 1,300 lives through 2014. A lot of the crashes that happen at intersections happen because people run red lights. In 2014, red-light running caused 709 deaths and about 126,000 injuries. However, those killed in such accidents generally did not run the red lights. It is usually a pedestrian, passenger, other driver, or bicycler. The rationale behind red-light cameras is that there are not enough police officers to sit at intersections to prevent people from running red lights. Some argue that red-light cameras discourage people from running red lights if people know they may receive a ticket. The effect of these cameras is that they reduce the number of fatal accidents that occur each year. [Read more…]

Illinois Stoned Driving

Joint stoned driving
On July 30, stoned driving became a possibility. Illinois became the twenty first state to decriminalize marijuana. Governor Bruce Rauner signed a law decriminalizing possession of ten grams of marijuana or less. Along with decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, the new state statute also defines driving under the influence of marijuana. Many people think that this change in the law is very positive since someone who used marijuana weeks prior to being pulled over could test positive and face misdemeanor charges and other fines. According to many defense attorneys and other specialists, the old testing styles led to wrongful convictions. [Read more…]

Pokemon Go: A New Distraction

25914117692_5d42261ac7_zRecently, Pokemon Go became one of the most popular apps of all time as users downloaded it over 100 million times. Needless to say, the game has become popular among adolescents who finally have a video game they can play outside, to the older generation who grew up playing and watching Pokemon. Now, everyone who has a smart phone can become a Pokemon trainer. Even with its popularity, there has been a backlash by concerned parents, drivers, and authorities. Recently, many people wonder how to play the game safely.

How Pokemon Go Causes Injuries

  • Not paying attention to their surroundings and run into something;
  • Walking around late at night and lacking awareness of the neighborhood
  • Not traveling in large groups when playing the game late at night;
  • Walking into the street chasing a rare Pokemon.

Pokemon Go and Crime

pokemon-1555036_960_720In order to play Pokemon Go, players have to get out of their house and walk around. Unfortunately, a lot of people keep their eyes glued to their phone instead of paying attention to their surroundings. Many people have heard about the stabbings and robberies that happened to people who were playing the game. Pokemon Go players become an easy target because they are not paying attention. They hold their phones in their hand (many thieves steal phones) and Pokemon Go players stay out late at night.

On one occasion, two young players were out playing Pokemon Go at 2am. Seven people confronted the players and demanded their wallets. One girl refused and they stabbed in the arm. Another incident occurred when robbers used lure modules to lure people into a trap. Lure modules can be seen by all players, and they bring Pokemon to the place that the lure module is set up. When the players arrived to the lure module, criminals rob them. Law enforcement agencies have warned people that the game could leave players vulnerable to criminals.

Distracted By Pokemon Go

Not only can being unaware of one’s surroundings lead to a robbery, but it can also cause someone to trip and fall and become injured. The game warns players to always pay attention to their surroundings when the game first starts up. However, many ignore those warning. One expert claims that injuries occur to distracted players while they walk. Two people who ignored the warning actually fell off of a bluff in California. The men were in their twenties, and they were trying to catch Pokemon when they fell off the side of the 75 foot bluff. Firefighters responded to the scene and took the injured players to the hospital where they suffered moderate injuries. According to the firefighters, the men crossed over a fenced area just to get to the Pokemon. Unfortunately, many other stories exist where players trespassed and injuries ensued.

Pokemon Go and Driving

english_pokemon_logo-svgUnfortunately, people are in fact playing this game while driving. Add this to the number of distractions for drivers, which could lead to more car accidents, especially since the game is growing in popularity and, according to fans, is very addicting. The AAA is very worried about the game since it sucks the player into the game and is more distracting than a text message. Although the game disables some features when the player is traveling over twenty miles per hour, accidents have still occurred because people have been playing the game while driving.

One accident occurred when a van struck a parked city police cruiser because he was playing Pokemon Go. Fortunately, the officers were standing on the sidewalk when the crash occurred, so none were injured. The body camera of an officer captured the  collision and the driver I heard in the video complaining about how he should not have been playing the game.

How to play Pokemon Go Safely

Pokemon Go is a great game. It brings people together, and people of all ages can play the game. Parents can finally rejoice because a video game has been invented that requires kids to go outdoors and play instead of sitting inside on a nice day. With that being said, there are a few things that every player should keep in mind:

  • Always be aware of your surroundings. It says that in the game, but make sure you do not trip over anything.
  • Do not trespass on someone’s lawn. Even if it is a very rare Pokemon.
  • Always travel with a group of people if you are going to go out catching Pokemon. A robbery is less likely to happen if you travel with a big group of people.
  • Do not run into the middle of the street chasing a Pokemon.
  • Finally, do not play the game while you are driving.

Follow these guidelines for a more enjoyable experience without injury. Gotta catch ’em all!

Summer Vacations Road Trip with Children

road tripWe all remember jumping into the station wagon for a road trip with our family to a vacation house, a hotel, or a national park. But after a long day taking care of children, exhausted parents get distracted while driving. Children create a lot of distraction when making a lot of noise and the parent who is driving tries to calm down the children. With distracting children, so full of energy and stuffed into a car, keep your eyes on the road to prevent the unexpected and reduce the potential of a car accident. Keep children from being a distraction and try to keep them as happy as possible in the car.

Before you leave for your road trip

Drivers most likely do not have to worry about icy roads or snow drifts anymore, but drivers can take certain steps to make sure their trips are full of fun.

Check these important car components before hitting the road:

  • Brakes
  • Fluid levels
  • Tires
  • Wiper blades
  • Lights

If all of these things are in order, your car may be ready for a road trip. It cannot hurt to go into a mechanic to make sure that everything is in working order. If the mechanic gives you the “OK”, then prepare the family for the trip.

Preparing your children for the road trip

road tripOne study suggests that children are a greater cause of distracted driving than cell phones. Try to avoid these common distracting acts that parents engage in:

  • Turning around to look at a child in the back seat which accounts for 76 percent of the distracted driving that involves children
  • Conversing with a child which accounts for 16 percent of the distracted driving that involves chidlren
  • Grabbing food or drink for a child which accounts for 7 percent.

The study found that during a 16 minute car ride with a child, parents looked away from the road for a total of three minutes and 22 seconds. A lot can happen in that time, but there are steps parents can take to avoid being distracted by children.

Keep your eyes on the road

It might be tempting to look into the rearview window to see why a child is misbehaving, but this should be avoided no matter what is going on in the backseat. If you absolutely need to talk to a child who is misbehaving while you are driving, use the calmest voice you can possibly muster. This will ensure that your children and others on the road will be safe. If you are traveling with a spouse, you can rely on the spouse to put things in order. If that does not work, then it is best to pull over the car at a rest stop and sort things out. It is better to arrive late than to cause an accident.

How do I keep my kids happy so they do not distract me while driving?

family road tripChildren are so full of energy that they can easily get bored and restless during car rides. Remember a few things to keep children entertained and to limit the amount of distractions that children can cause.

  • Bring snacks. Whether it is just a short trip or a long one, plenty of snacks will keep children happy and entertained. Just make sure the snacks are not too messy.
  • Plan your bathroom and eating breaks. It is best not to drive more than two or three hours at a time while traveling with younger children.
  • Ensure that your children are comfortable. Dress your children in loose clothing, bring pillows, and socks if their feet get cold.
  • Play their favorite music. Even if you hate it.
  • Keep everything you need in a convenient place. Parents get distracted a lot because they have to reach for stuff and try to find things. If children know where things are, then that eliminates the need for a driving parent to go digging through bags.
  • Pack electronics. DVD players and phones can keep children entertained for hours.
  • Listen to audio books.

Have fun and stay safe

Road trips can be very fun, and a child will remember family road trips for the rest of their lives. Make sure that there are no road bumps in your road trip this summer by ensuring that your car is functioning properly and that you remain focused on the road. Keep your children happy during those long trips, and do not be afraid to stop frequently if need be. Remember, it is better to arrive somewhere late if that means you have to make a few extra stops.

Driverless Cars: Are They Safe?

Driverless Car at Geneva Auto Show

For many years, fictional television shows, movies, and books displayed the wonders of driverless cars. Today, driverless cars may become more common on the road. It seems that driverless cars line the roadways the future as more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon due to inventors at Google and Tesla, to name a few. The autopilot feature manages its own speed in traffic, change lanes, and even park on its own. Although they grab the attention of the media, drivers do not yet sit behind the steering wheels. But a recent accident involving a man killed after crashing into an 18-wheeler tractor trailer with the autopilot on his driverless car engaged. How safe is this feature and driverless cars?

What is autopilot?

Autopilot is an enhanced version of cruise control. The features uses cameras, radar, ultrasonic sound, and other software to navigate the roadway. The car automatically responds to traffic ahead by changing lanes or adjusting speed using this technology. The car should avoid hazards and reduce the amount of work that the driver has to do. Although a driver cannot nap behind the wheel, the enhancements provides a driver with one step past the cruise control technology – all to hope to reduce the number of car accidents.

NHTSA rating for driverless cars

Google_driverless_car_at_intersection.gkThe NHTSA has five levels to serve as guidelines for autonomous driving (numbered 0 to 4).

  • Level 0 – no degree of automation. The driver has complete control over the car and is entirely responsible for controlling every aspect of the car.
  • Level 1 – some basic technological help, such as electronic stability control or pre-charged brakes. Almost every car on the road today meets this level.
  • Level 2 – combined function automation. It specifies the use of several functions at once, such as lane centering and cruise control.
  • Level 3 – allows the car to take over completely in certain situations like highway driving. But the car expects the driver to take control.
  • Level 4 – requires no assistance from the driver to get from point A to point B in no time.

What happened in Florida?

Florida was the first known fatal accident where the autopilot feature was engaged. The driver of the driverless car was apparently watching a Harry Potter movie while behind the wheel. He was apparently driving so fast that the truck he crashed into did not even see him. This crash was a significant setback and public relations nightmare for the creators of the driverless car. It appears that the car’s sensors system against a bright spring sky failed to distinguish between the sky and a white eighteen wheeler. The creatos warned the driver of the autopilot car  to always pay attention while operating the driverless car and keep his hands on the wheel, but he failed to follow these directions.

Some concerns with driverless cars

Some of the main concerns with driverless cars is that they are in the level three territory, which still requires the driver to remain in control of the vehicle and alert at all times, but this lulls people into thinking that the car is a level 4. Many youtube videos have emerged where drivers of these driverless cars are reading the newspaper, playing games, and doing other activities while using the autopilot feature. If the driver was using a level 4 car, this would be completely fine, but since the driverless cars are only level 3, these activities are very dangerous. Some have even called for companies to rename the autopilot function since it sounds too much like the driver can sit back and relax while the autopilot takes over.

So, is a driverless car safer?

Driverless Cars GoogleWhen one looks at the big picture, driver error is the leading cause of car-accident related injuries. In fact, driver error is responsible for ninety four percent of the car accidents in the United States. Some people believe that driverless cars will save thousands of lives each year. Seeing as how the autopilot system has caused only one death in 130 million miles of road, and Americans average one death per 94 million miles driven, the driverless system may be safer. Even though these cars are labeled “driverless”, drivers still need to remain alert and attentive while behind the wheel. Since these cars are only level three, they are not completely automatic.

“How can Cook County help you today?” – Putting Services First with New Website

As many people are frustrated with the DMV or jury duty, sometimes people are frustrated when they log onto a website that is supposed to provide services that the government offers. A lot of times, people have to click through several pages of confusing materials before they can actually find who to contact for the service that they need. Cook County has taken a seemingly revolutionary approach by making “services” the number one focus of their website.

With their new website, Cook County has made finding it easier for users to find a lost pet, apply for a job, pay for a ticket, request a birth certificate, or report something.

What Was Wrong with the Old Website?

cook county illinoisPeople rarely visit a government website to figure out how the government works. Most users visit government websites to figure out who to contact for a certain service. The old website focused more on “who does what” in the government, so the user was not really the focus of the website. Cook County saw that this was problematic, since it has long been held an American belief that the government should be designed to serve the people. After all, that’s where our tax dollars go, why should the people have to navigate through complicated websites just to find a service that the government is required to offer?

What Changes Has Cook County Made?

The new website puts the user first by focusing on services. In fact, when a user goes to the website, the first thing the user sees is a large search box with the words “How can Cook County help you today?”  When a user types in the box, suggested search terms pop up, and when a user searches for something, the results are very user friendly. After conducting a search, the user can filter the results, and a list of services related to the search term appears below the results.

What Else Is New on the Cook County Wesbite?

At the top of the page, the first main menu item says “I want to.” If a user opens that menu, a list of services will drop down. These are the most commonly requested services, and now they are very easy for users to find. Some of the most commonly requested services that are included in the drop down menu instruct people on how to apply for a job, get information regarding worker’s compensation, find where to vote or property information, pay property taxes or a hospital bill, request to postpone jury duty, and report an environmental complaint.

Several other services are now on the drop down menu so users do not have to go searching through the website to find them. It does not matter if you are using a smartphone or a computer; the website will adjust to whatever you are using.

What If Users Want to Search by Agency?

Users can still search by agency if they want, but these pages have been updated as well. On each agency page, users will find the agency’s location and contact information. The services that the agency offers will be listed as well. Users will also find a section called “Transparency” where documents that the agency holds will be listed. A list of related agencies and upcoming events are on each agency’s page.

Everything Is Connected in Cook County

cook county websiteThat’s because everything on the website is connected to make it as easy as possible for users to get to where they need to be. The creators of the new website wanted to use links to bring people to an agency within the county, another county website, or a document held at another website. Linking websites together, and linking one agency to another, is much easier than telling users to go to a different website.

About 10,000 people visit the site each day, so officials will be monitoring the website to see how people use and find information. To create this website, the County worked with Smart Chicago, an organization that works to improve people’s lives through better online access. Smart Chicago brought hundreds of testers to make sure that the website is running as efficiently as possible. Residents of Chicago can be certain that the website will become easier and easier to navigate a more users frequent the website.

About the Firm


Ronald F. Wittmeyer, Jr. practices plaintiffs' personal injury law at his office in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

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