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Distracted Drivers – How Insurance Rates Increase

Distracted Drivers

As smart phones become smarter, drivers have a harder time keeping their hands off of their phones while driving. With every convenience and entertainment option at your fingertips, many drivers find it difficult to focus solely on the road while driving. Even with a  changing auto industry with smarter and driverless cars, car accidents are increasing across the United States. Some believe cell phone usage contributed to this increase. As drivers become more dangerous daily, insurance companies  increase their rates to keep up with the increasing number of accidents.

Distracted Drivers

Smart phones seem to lead to more distracted drivers. A survey conducted by a major insurance company revealed that 36% of people surveyed admitted that they texted behind the wheel and 29% admitted to browsing the internet while driving. Not surprisingly, a majority of these drivers who admitted to this behavior were between 18 and 29. Unfortunately, these least experienced drivers become susceptible to accidents as road conditions frequently change. Accidents easily happen in the blink of an eye. Additionally, the amount of people who own a smartphone has increased over the years, which means more distracted drivers on the road. As the chief executive of one major insurance company calls this an epidemic issue for the country.

Distracted Driving Increasing Insurance Rates

Distracted driving is not anything new. Insurance companies have dealt with distractions before. However, as smartphone technology increased, the problem worsened. One insurer expects to raise their insurance rates by 8% this year. In 2016, the increase was 6.5% increases.  Additionally, the average insurance rate across the country has increased by 16% since 2011. The average cost is up to $926 a year. Previously, many predicted that the rates would fall with the addition of many safety features such as anti-collision gear.  Lastly, the low prices of gas increases the number of drivers on the roads, which leads to more accidents.

Most Do Not Text and Drive

Although surveys state over 1/3 text and drive, recent government studies disagree. Researchers found that only 2.2% of their surveyed population texted while driving. In 2006, the survey stated .4%. However, insurance companies claim that this study does not fully capture the number of people who text or use their phone.  These studies done by the government relied on police reports and observations. Not surprisingly, some people may not admit to using a phone behind the wheel.  Moreover, car insurers investigate crashes to find out how it happened. So, they can stay on top of trends and may have more accurate statistics.

How Illinois Bans Distracted Driving

Illinois passed a law in 2013 that banned drivers from using cell phones in Illinois while driving. Drivers can only use cell phones if the driver is using hands-free technology. Otherwise, they need to pay a fine. Additionally, Illinois has a law that specifically bans texting while driving.

Safe Driving Tips for Cell Phone Users

An accident could happen at any moment even if cars are becoming more accident resistant. For that reason, drivers should leave their cell phones in their glove box or in an area where it cannot be reached. This will allow drivers to avoid the temptation of wanting to check email or surf the web while driving. Additionally, more accidents behind the wheel will lead to higher insurance rates, as studies have already shown this trend occurring across the United States. The best practice is just to keep off the smartphone while driving. It may save your life or somebody else’s life.

Fireworks: Best Left to the Professionals

Watching fireworks for the Fourth of July and other holidays has been a great American pastime for many years. Most people enjoy watching fireworks from a safe distance, but some people like to light off their own fireworks, and unfortunately, this can easily lead to a serious injury if the person handling the fireworks is not a professional. Let the professionals do their job and  reduce your risk of being injured this Fourth of July.

firework injuryMany people think that they cannot be severely injured by fireworks, but that is not true. Fireworks can cause serious, life-altering injuries, including severe burns, eye injuries, loss of limbs, and even death. Fireworks have been getting more powerful over the years. Doctors often see cases where hands and fingers are actually blown apart. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 10,000 injuries a year are somehow related to fireworks, and just about 67% of those injuries occur around the Fourth of July.

Even legal fireworks in Illinois cause serious injuries. For example, sparklers burn at over 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit and may seriously burn the skin or clothing.

How do firework-related injuries happen?

Most firework-related injuries were associated with misuse or malfunctions of fireworks. Most victims recover from their injuries, but some injuries could be long term.

Types of misuse include:

  • lighting in one’s hands,
  • being too close to lit fireworks,
  • setting off a firework improperly,
  • mischief,
  • igniting too close to someone, and
  • dismantling fireworks.

Typical malfunctions include: errant flight plans, tip-over incidents, early ignitions, and blowouts. Additionally, smoke and debris were involved in some of the injuries as well.

Types of burns that a firework can cause:

  • A first degree burn. This type of burn has the intensity of a mild sunburn and should be treated with lukewarm water. Do not put ice on the burn because that could cause additional damage. Always follow up with a physician.
  • A second degree burn. This destroys the outermost layer of skin and extends into the second layer of skin, causes blistering, and these burns can be the most painful. Seek medical attention if you get this type of burn.
  • A third degree burn. This type of burn destroys both layers of skin and causes permanent tissue and nerve damage. Seek medical attention immediately for this type of burn.

Most injured body parts

  • 36% Hands and fingers
  • 19% Eyes
  • 19% Head, face, and ears
  • 11% Stomach area
  • 10% Legs
  • 5% arms

If you believe you or someone you know have been negligently hurt by the use of fire crackers, contact the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. today for a free consultation.

How to stay safe when handling legal fireworks

fireworks-804838_960_720As stated earlier, most fireworks are illegal in Illinois, but some are still legal. This does not mean they are not dangerous, and the best way to avoid injuries: watch fireworks from a safe distance, but if you decide to buy some legal fireworks, here are a few tips to avoid injuries:

  • Do not allow young children or minors play with or ignite fireworks. In a 2014 study, children younger than 15 years of age accounted for 35% of the firework- related injuries. Just about half of the injuries happened to individuals younger than 20.
  • Always have an adult supervising when a child is playing with fireworks, even if the child is just playing with sparklers.
  • After lighting a firework, back up to a safe distance. Never stand directly over the firework, even if it is one that does not shoot up into the air.
  • If you light a firework, and it does not go off, do not try to pick it up and relight it again.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose close by.
  • After a firework has gone off, douse the spend device with plenty of water before discarding it in the trash. If it is not doused in water, it could possibly start a fire.

Have a safe Fourth of July and celebrate safely! Enjoy your picnic and the fireworks displays across the area. We prefer the firework show at Arlington Racetrack, but every town in the Northwest Suburbs have amazing displays!

NWSBA Newsbriefs – November 2015

Check out this month’s Northwest Suburban Bar Association November Newsbriefs.

In this issue, Ron discusses his thoughts in regards to devoting time and energy to the Northwest Suburban Bar Association:

“We all know that you get out of something what you put into it – and this professional organization is no different. I also believe that we all have a lot to gain by more widespread involvement by more of our members. Taking the first step is the hardest, especially when you are new to an organization and may not know many people in the group. ” Visit page 3 of the November NWSBA Newsbrief for the full article.

Click here to read November’s newsletter and read more of Ronald Wittmeyer’s message on page 3.

New Illinois Law Permits Camera Installation at Long-Term Care Nursing Homes

Illinois has approximately 1,200 long-term care nursing homes that serve more than 100,000 residents. Each year, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), responsible for licensing and regulating all Illinois nursing homes, fields around 19,000 complaints of abuse and neglect against residents of the state’s long-term care facilities. Common injuries to residents of nursing homes include falls, bedsores, malnutrition, and dehydration.  These injuries can occur by accident or at the hand of a caretaker who is acting negligently or maliciously.  Residents’ dependence on caretakers makes them especially vulnerable to being abused by those tasked with ensuring their well-being.  It is scary and infuriating to consider that someone in such a position may actually do harm rather than good but the unfortunate truth is that it happens all the time.  How then are you to feel secure leaving your loved one in a long-term care nursing home?

The Balance: Protecting Residents and Privacy Rights

4083382297_d403762752Illinois House Bill 2462 creating and authorizing the Authorized Electronic Monitoring in Long-Term Care Facilities Act seeks to give family members a peace of mind by allowing cameras to be installed in resident rooms at long-term care nursing homes.  Although installation of the cameras is not mandatory under the new legislation, it provides the option to install audio and visual monitoring equipment in residents’ rooms so that family members can check their loved one’s welfare and keep a record of the treatment they are receiving behind closed doors.   There are certain rules required by the legislation before the cameras can be installed, a majority of which are in place to avoid violating anyone’s right to privacy.

  • Written consent to have surveillance equipment installed must be completed by the resident himself or an appointed legal guardian.
  • If the resident has a roommate, permission must be obtained from that person before installing any surveillance equipment.
  • All cameras must be placed in a conspicuously visible location.
  • A sign must be posted at the long-term care nursing home’s main entrance that clearly provides notice that “the rooms of some residents may be monitored electronically by or on behalf of the residents.”

The Authorized Electronic Monitoring in Long-Term Care Facilities Act specifies that all equipment, installation, and any internet connection required is to be supplied and financed by the resident however, the facility is not authorized to charge residents who opt to install cameras an extra fee for the electricity consumed by their operation. Further, the Act prohibits long-term care nursing homes from barring admission to prospective residents just because they choose to have surveillance cameras installed and punishes anyone who knowingly hampers, obstructs, tampers with or destroys the electronic monitoring equipment.

The primary goal of this legislation is to deter abuse and neglect by employees in long-term care nursing homes.  Hopefully, the mere awareness that they are being monitored will encourage staff members to uphold their duty to provide a reasonable standard of care.   If it does not, recordings made by a resident’s surveillance equipment can be used in civil, criminal, and administrative proceedings to make a showing regarding a resident’s health and safety and the treatment they are receiving.

What to Do If You or a Loved One Is an Injured Victim you suspect that a resident of a long-term care nursing home is the victim of abuse or neglect and is in immediate life-threatening danger, call 9-1-1.  If no immediate danger exists, contact a personal injury attorney who can help you file an elder abuse report or complaint with the Illinois Department of Public Health.  Discovering that a loved one has been injured at the hand of someone entrusted to care for them can be a disturbing experience.  Contacting a personal injury attorney can help alleviate some of the stress by explaining the law surrounding nursing home injuries and counseling you and your family on what legal remedies may be available.  Generally, the statute of limitations for a long-term care nursing home abuse and neglect suit is two years from the date of injury unless the facility is operated by a local governmental entity, in which case the statute of limitations is only one year.  If you wait too long to file a suit for injuries wrongfully incurred while residing at a long-term care nursing facility, you will miss out on your chance to receive compensation.  If you become made aware that you or a family member was the victim of abuse or neglect contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

The Authorized Electronic Monitoring in Long-Term Care Facilities Act was signed into law by Governor Rauner in August of this year and will go into effect beginning in 2016.

About the Firm

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

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