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Illinois Distracted Driving Awareness Week

Distracted Driving

In support of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, from April 24 through April 28, Illinois has designated Distracted Driving Awareness Week. The Illinois Association of Police asked the governor to declare that week as National Driving Awareness Week. The goal is to bring awareness to the potential consequences and dangers that result from distracted driving. The governor and both houses passed resolutions, recognizing this week as National Driving Awareness Week in Illinois.

Why Do We Have National Driving Awareness Week?

We need to bring awareness to the potential dangers of distracted driving. Car accidents happen every day and phones are becoming smarter. Distracted driving has become a major cause of car accidents. This awareness may reduce the number of accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that in 2015:

  • 391,000 motor vehicle crashes occurred due to distracted driving.
  • About 3,477 people were killed due to distracted driving.
  • 10 percent of fatal crashes occurred because of distracted driving.
  • 15 percent of injury crashes occurred because of distracted driving.
  • 14 percent of police reported that a car accident happened because one or both of the drivers were distracted.
  • Texting and driving has become a big problem across the country, especially for young drivers between the ages of 16 and 24.
  • Young drivers have been observed using a handheld device while driving more than older drivers.

A AAA Foundation for traffic safety found that

  • While eight out of ten drivers thought it was unacceptable to text and drive behind the wheel, more than one third of those same drivers admitted to reading texts while driving.
  • Even though more people have died because of distracted driving recently, fewer drivers seem concerned about texting and driving.
  • Texting and driving is dangerous to everyone, not just the driver.

What Will Police Do During This Week?

In many counties across Illinois, there will be a higher level of enforcement of the state’s distracted driving laws. Volunteers will donate their time to help police departments. In some cities, if a volunteer sees a person using a handheld device while driving, a warning will be sent to that person via U.S. mail. Additionally, many officers will focus on distracted driving since the dangers are real, and since police want to reduce traffic fatalities and injuries.

How You Can Manage Common Driver Distractions

Lake Street Accident

  • Turn off your phone when driving. It is very easy to be distracted when a driver sees his or her phone light up if it is sitting on the dashboard. However, this can result in a serious injury. It might be best to just turn the phone off and put it away. This would prevent any temptation to answer a phone call, reply to a text, or even check an email. If you do need to make a call, it is best to pull over to a safe place.
  • If there is a passenger in the car, and if you are using GPS, let the passenger navigate. This will give you both hands free and you can focus on the road.
  • Do not eat, drink, smoke, put on make-up, shave, or do anything else that takes your focus away from the road. Everyone is always on the move, but plan your time accordingly so you do not have to engage in these activities behind the wheel.
  • If you have pets in the car, make sure they are secured. Don’t let them run around the car and distract you.
  • If you have kids in the car, make sure they have everything that they need. This will keep you from having to search through the car for something that they need but cannot find.

New Illinois Safe Driving Laws in 2017

Safe DrivingNew laws became effective in Illinois that should bring safe driving to the Land of Lincoln. Most Illinois drivers are familiar with “Scott’s Law.” The law requires drivers to change lanes or reduce their speed if a stationary emergency vehicle with lights activated. Usually, the emergency vehicles are pulled over the side of the road on the highway. Then drivers usually switch to the other lane when passing. The law aims to reduce the injuries of emergency vehicle drivers from  driver passing the vehicles. A new law extends the same courtesy to drivers pulled over with their hazardous lights on.

How Scott’s Law Affects Safe Driving

Named after a firefighter of the Chicago Fire Department, Lt. Scott Gillen, Illinois enacted Scott’s Law in 2000. Lt. Scott Gillen was assisting at a crash on the Dan Ryan Expressway when he was struck and killed by a drunk driver. Many call Scott’s Law the “Move Over” law because it requires drivers to essentially move over. If a driver breaks Scott’s Law, they could face up to $10,000 in fines and a suspended license.

Why has the law changed?

2016 became the deadliest year since 2008 this past year on Illinois roads. As with most driving laws, the main purpose of the law is to ensure that drivers get to their destinations safely. Police officers around Illinois will crack down on unsafe drivers. Their efforts will make sure educated drivers keep roads safer.

As a matter of fact, traffic fatalities reached 1,073 in 2016. The new year brings new goals, and one of the goals is to make Illinois roads safer. Some drivers already move over when there is a vehicle parked on the side of the road, so they will not be affected by the change. In the end, this law should be very beneficial. For instance, if a driver changes their left front tire on the shoulder, vehicles should move over. Now that there is a law requiring this, drivers can feel safer when they need to fix a tire.

What Other Safe Driving Laws Changed in 2017?

8213432552_d4d9b72269_oAnother law that changed in the new year: fines have doubled for cars who attempt to go around lowered railroad crossings has changed. The first offense will cost the driver $500, and any offense after that will cost the driver $1,000. This law has come into effect to keep drivers off the railroad tracks while the gate is coming down. If something were to happen while the driver is on the railroad tracks, it could result in a serious injury or even death. This law is further incentive for drivers to keep off the railroad tracks when the crossing guard is coming down. Additionally, if a driver is driving without insurance, and continue to drive without insurance, the driver could lose their vehicle in 2017.

The last law that has changed is the law that effects driving in school zones. Drivers who speed 26 miles per hour but less than 35 miles per hour through a school or work zone is now a class B misdemeanor, and going faster than 35 miles per hour is a class A misdemeanor and could land a driver in jail.

Safe Driving in 2017

We can only hope that these new laws will bring safer roads in Illinois. Since more than 1,000 people died in car accidents this past year, something needed to change. The fines are the last thing that people should worry about when looking at these new laws. Instead, drivers should abide by the new laws, and in the end, these laws could possibly save lives. It is a new year, so Illinois drivers should make a resolution to make the streets safer.

Chicago Holiday Safe Driving Tips

Holiday Safe DrivingWe hear it every winter – this one is going to be bad. From the Farmer’s Almanac to local weatherpeople, Chicago prepares for the worst! However, even with bad weather, people like to travel and need holiday safe driving tips. People cross state lines to see their family and friends. To ensure that everyone has a safe and fun holiday, remember to drive safely and pay attention to weather conditions. [Read more…]

Crosswalks: Being Safe While Crossing

Accidents in CrosswalksWith the beginning of the school year, more students walk as they head to school and will use crosswalks. Many parents rightfully worry about the safety of their children while walking to school. It is too often that pedestrians or bicyclers are killed or fatally injured while using a crosswalk. Recently, a Mount Prospect cyclist was killed after a driver failed to stop at a crosswalk. At this particular crosswalk, a special beacon flashed to warn drivers that someone is crossing. People wonder if a more effective way exists to warn and alert drivers of pedestrians in crosswalks. [Read more…]

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…]

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.

About the Firm


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

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