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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.

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…]

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…]

Train Accidents: Real Dangers and How to Avoid Them

On October 9, 20015, two train accidents occurred in different parts of Chicago: one woman in Elmhurst and one woman on the northwest side of Chicago were killed when they were struck by Metra commuter trains. Being a Midwestern state, Illinois appears toward the top of nearly every list that features statistics on states’ total number of freight railroads and miles traveled by train.  This is no surprise as about 1/3 of all U.S. cargo travels through the centrally-located Chicagoland area.  Illinois is the only state in which all seven of the country’s Class I railroads, such as Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway and the Union Pacific (UP) Railroad, operate.  Additionally, 292,000 commuters travel on Metra lines each day from the suburbs into the city and vice versa. We run an impressive 9,982 miles of track throughout the state but as they say: with great access to the railroad comes great responsibility. ().
Waukeegan Trains
Cook County’s 2,548 railroad crossings account for 17.4% of all the crossings in the state.However, a staggering 35% of all collisions involving a train over the last 5 years have taken place here. A majority of these collisions take place at public crossings despite the presence of passive or active warning devices.  Obviously railroad crossings can be dangerous but to whom?  Both pedestrians and drivers face immense risks when it comes to trains and should likewise take precautions to ensure their safety.

[Read more…]

Understanding Crash Test Ratings

downloadWhen shopping for a new vehicle, consumers undoubtedly do some checking up on its safety features and crash test ratings.  Entities like insurance companies and car manufacturers conduct independent studies regarding vehicle safety and publish them in order to assist consumers in making safe, educated decisions.  Often times these ratings can be confusing, consisting of numbers and statistics accompanied by designations like “Top Safety Pick”, the criteria of which the average American may be unfamiliar.  A breakdown of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) rating criteria is essential for understanding how vehicles are evaluated for safety.

The IIHS focuses on two facets of safety when conducting their analysis—crashworthiness and crash avoidance and mitigation.  Crashworthiness, or a vehicle’s ability to protect its occupants in an accident, is based on how the vehicle performs in five tests:

  • moderate overlap frontal test,
  • small overlap frontal test,
  • side crash test,
  • roof strength and
  • head restraint evaluation.

A vehicle gets its crash avoidance and mitigation rating based on what technology it is equipped with that can prevent a crash or lessen its severity.  Only vehicles with front crash prevention systems are rated for crash avoidance and mitigation.  The results are then translated into overall ratings of good, acceptable, marginal, or poor for each category.

Why Do Crash Test Warnings Matter to Me?

IIHS_crash_test_dummy_in_Hyundai_TucsonOn a busy Monday morning in the Chicagoland area a commuting driver may face many hazards.  Speeding vehicles, large trucks, and low visibility turns are just a few commonly found hazards throughout the area.  Recently, the driver of a dark blue BMW X1 became the victim of these hazards when her vehicle was struck by a dump truck on northbound Route 41, south of 137 in North Chicago just before 1 p.m.  It took collaboration by the North Chicago, Libertyville, Knollwood, and Great Lakes Fire Departments to stabilize the vehicle and extricate the driver, who was pinned inside.  She was airlifted to the hospital but is expected to survive perhaps, in part, due to the safety features of her vehicle.  The BMW X1 was given the highest safety rating of ‘good’ in 4 out of 5 of the categories tested by the IIHS.  The only category in which the SUV received a score of ‘marginal’ was in the small overlap frontal test.  The BMW X1 does not feature a front crash prevention system and is therefore not rated for its crash avoidance and mitigation rating.

Moderate Overlap Frontal Crash Test

Applied in real life, a moderate overlap frontal test most closely replicates an offset, head on collision between two vehicles of similar weight both travelling at about 40 mph A frontal crash is the most common type of fatal car accident.  The moderate overlap frontal test exposes 40% of the front of the vehicle to a barrier made of aluminum honeycomb at a speed of 40 mph.  A crash test dummy the size of an average man with sensors in its head, neck, chest, legs and feet is situated in the driver’s seat to measure the potential for injury when the vehicle hits the barrier on the driver side.  This results in the occupant compartment going through greater deceleration making this test more appropriate for evaluating restraint systems such as airbags and seat belts.  .

Small Overlap Frontal Crash Test

A small overlap frontal test simulates a crash where the front corner of the vehicle hits a stationary object such as a pole or tree.  Small overlap frontal crashes primarily affect a vehicle’s outer edges, which aren’t well protected by the crush-zone structures.  Because 25% of frontal crash deaths are caused by car accidents in which the outer front wheel is the first point of impact, the IIHS recently implemented the small overlap frontal test.  Seriously injuries resulting from these types of accidents typically include trauma or entrapment to the leg or foot.

Side Crash Test

A side crash test simulates an SUV t-boning the driver’s side of a vehicle at 31 mph.  It is actually a very extreme simulation which, in real life, would be unlikely to produce an uninjured passenger.  The goal however, is that conducting a side crash test will provide direction to car manufacturers regarding the best way to design cars that will decrease the severity of any injuries.  Because women are more likely to suffer from a head injury following a left-side impact the IIHS positions crash test dummies in both the driver seat and the seat behind which are equivalent to a petite woman or 12 year-old child.

Roof Strength

DummiesRollover crashes carry the highest risk of fatality when compared to any other type of accident.  In instances when a rollover does result in a fatality, more often than not the victim was not wearing a seatbelt.  The roof strength test consists of a metal plate being pushed against one side of the roof at a slow, constant pace.  The peak strength-to-weight ratio of the roof is recorded at any time before the roof is crushed by 5 inches.  A good roof strength rating requires that a roof can withstand a force of at least 4 times the vehicle’s weight. Stronger roofs and side curtain airbags can help protect occupants during a rollover accident but the best way to avoid injury and ejection is for each passenger to wear their seat belt correctly at all times.

Head Restraint Evaluation

The  head restraint evaluation is conducted by simulating a rear-end crash equivalent to if a stationary vehicle were struck by a vehicle of similar weight at 20 mph.  According to the IIHS, neck sprains and strains are the most frequently reported injuries in U.S. auto insurance claims.  Although whiplash-type injuries can result from any number of automobile accidents, rear-end accidents are the most common culprit.  The head restraint evaluation tests the effectiveness of head restraints in preventing head, neck, and spinal injury.  In this crash test, a dummy about the size of an average man with a spine designed to mimic a humans 24 vertebra is placed in the driver seat to measure the impact the accident would likely have on a real driver.

About the Firm

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

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