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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.

Are You and Your Family Ready to “Bug Out”?

Washington, DC, July 22, 2008 — A Red Cross “ready to go” preparedness kit showing the bag and it’s contents. These kits are available from the Red Cross and the contents can be customized. Red Cross photograph

In order to be ready to “bug out”, or relocate in the event of an emergency, you and your family could benefit from having a bug out bag prepared and ready to go. A bug out bag is a portable kit, typically packed into a backpack type of carrier, which contains the items you and your family would need to survive for 72 hours in the event of an emergence or disaster. The main purpose of a bug out bag is to prepare you in the event you need to evacuate.

The term “bug-out bag” is related to the military practice of troops being prepared to evacuate or relocate if needed in times of war. It is helpful to have all of the items needed to evacuate in one place so you can evacuate in a hurry. The idea of having enough supplies for 72 hours comes from the estimated time it would take a disaster relief agency to be able to assist you in an emergency.

Here is a typical bug out bag list from Wikipedia with suggested items for your bag:

  • Enough food and water to last for at least 72 hours. This includes:
    • Water for washing, drinking and cooking–typically one gallon per person per day. Don’t forget water for your pets, too.
    • Non-perishable food
    • Water purification supplies
  • first aid kit
  • Basic cooking supplies
  • Fire starting tool).
  • A disaster plan including location of emergency centers, rallying points, possible evacuation routes, etc.
  • Professional emergency literature explaining what to do in various types of disaster, studied and understood before the actual disaster but kept for reference.
  • Maps and travel information
  • Standard camping equipment, including sanitation supplies
  • Weather appropriate clothing and UV protection, including rain gear
  • Bedding items such as sleeping bags and blankets
  • Enough medicine to last an extended evacuation period
  • Copies of medical records for each person in the family
  • Pet, child, and elderly care needs
  • Battery or crank-operated radio
  • Lighting (battery or crank operated flashlightglow sticks)
  • Cash and change, as electronic banking transactions may not be available during the initial period following an emergency or evacuation
  • Positive identification, such as drivers license, state I.D. card, or social security card, plus any medical ID cards if you have them. Those with allergies should have a MedicAlert or similar ID.
  • Birth certificate or passport
  • Fixed-blade and folding knife
  • Swiss Army Knife
  • Multi-tool, like a Leatherman
  • Duct tape and rope or paracord
  • Tarpaulins for shelter and water collection
  • Wire for binding and animal traps
  • Compass
  • Firearms and extra ammunition
  • Slingshotpellet gunblowgun or other small game hunting equipment
  • Small fishing kit
  • Signal mirror
  • Emergency whistle
  • Rubber tubing
  • Digestion care medicine for indigestion, stomach ache, nausea, and diarrhea

Some bug out bag lists available on the Internet contain as many as 104 items. You can pick and choose which items best meet your “bug out” evacuation needs: http://www.skilledsurvival.com/free-bug-out-bag-checklist/.

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…]

O’Hare American Airlines Fire

Last month, eighteen passengers on aboard an American Airlines airplane had to escape after it caught on fire. The passengers are now suing the manufacturers and the carrier in Cook County. The lawsuit alleges that the manufacturer sold a faulty engine and used the engine to assemble an unsafe aircraft. Around twenty people went to the hospital due to the American Airlines fire.

What Happened at O’Hare?

American Airlines Fire
161 passengers and other crew members evacuated the plane after it caught on fire. Hospitals admitted 20 passengers after the incident. The airplane caught on fire while on the tarmac. Apparently, the passengers only sustained minor injuries, but the injuries could have been much worse. Right before the flight was about to takeoff, a steel-alloy disk fractured into four pieces. A section pierced the fuel tank and ignited a fire.

The National Transportation Safety Board report issued after the American Airlines fire revealed that the engine was consistent with fatigue cracking. According to the report, the takeoff was aborted because there was uncontained engine failure and this led to fuel pooling under the right wing, which went up into flames. [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…]

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…]

About the Firm


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

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