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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.

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…]

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.

Distracted Driving: Staying Focused on the Road in Illinois

Distracted driving is linked to more than 1.6 million crashes in the United States annually, resulting in serious injuries and sometimes deaths.  Some experts say the economic impact of these car accidents reaches nearly $40 billion per year. A recent American Automobile Association study suggests that almost everyone reaches for something, adjusts a control, or gets distracted while driving at some point, which is one of the reasons why distracted driving is such a big problem.

Efforts to Make Streets Safer from Distracted Driving

Distracted DrivingThe National Highway and Transportation Administration found that texting while driving is very similar to driving while intoxicated. In response to this alarming discovery, on January 1, 2014, the Illinois legislature attempted to make the streets safer by passing legislation to address the problem of driving while using a cell phone. Illinois banned drivers from using a cell phone to call someone or text someone while operating a motor vehicle, unless the person parked the car. Drivers over the age of 18 may use a hands-free device or bluetooth technology, but many critics consider these devices distraction and potentially dangerous. Even with hands-free technology, experts recommend that the driver pull over to somewhere safe to make a phone call. If a driver crashes because he or she is distracted, the driver may face criminal penalties and incarceration.

Can Illinois drivers ever use a cell phone while driving?

 

An Illinois driver may use a cell phone in the following situations:

  • Reporting an emergency situation
  • Using hands-free or in voice-activated mode
  • Parked safely on the shoulder of a roadway
  • Stopped due to normal traffic being obstructed and you put the vehicle in neutral or park

Has the new legislation helped decrease the number of traffic fatalities?

Unfortunately, the results of the new legislation underperformed in 2014. As a matter of fact, the number of traffic fatalities increased in Chicago. In 2015, there were fifty more fatalities that resulted from traffic accidents than in the previous year. Some state legislators have entertained the idea of passing new legislation that would impose even more severe penalties for distracted driving. Whether or not stricter penalties for distracted driving will reduce the number of car accidents is uncertain.

Are you a distracted driver?

Distracted DrivingWhen driving do you:

  • Shave?
  • Text or email?
  • Read or write?
  • Tune the radio?
  • Put on makeup?
  • Eat, drink, or smoke?
  • Talk on the cell phone?
  • Comb or brush your hair?
  • File, clip, or polish your nails?
  • Argue with another passenger?
  • Reach for the glove compartment?
  • Break up fights between your kids?
  • Put in contact lenses or eye drops?
  • Pick something up from the floor or between the seats?

If you answered yes to any of the previous questions, welcome to your status as a distracted driver. Almost every driver has engaged in at one point or another but any of these activities could easily lead to an accident. And some accidents can be fatal.

How do you avoid distracted driving?

To avoid being distracted, you can:

  • Limit interaction with other passengers
  • Avoid talking while driving
  • Avoid taking your eyes off the road
  • Keep both hands on the wheel

Most importantly, the idea of distracted driving needs to be taken as seriously as driving under the influence. Both driving while intoxicated and texting while driving can result in following too closely, not being able to brake on time, and weaving in and out of oncoming traffic. A recent study has found that drunk driving fatalities have decreased by 25% from 2002 to 2011, but distracted driving fatalities have increased by 22% from 2002 to 2011. Texting likely appears to cause the rise in distracted driving fatalities. With advances in technology, drivers easily get distracted behind the wheel, but drivers should always keep their eyes on the road and realize that a distraction could easily result in a death or serious injury.

About the Firm


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

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