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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.

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Senate Confirms Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch

Neil Gorsuch

On Friday, April 7th, after more than thirty hours of debate, the Senate confirmed Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, with a final tally of 54-45 in favor of confirmation, who is now the 113th justice of the Supreme Court. For over a year, the Supreme Court has only had eight justices because of a political battle over who was going to sit on the bench. President Donald Trump appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch after committing to appointing a conservative to the bench after Justice Scalia died last February. The new justice may serve for over three decades.

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When Will Self-Driving Cars Roam Illinois Roads?

self-driving car

Research project Highly automated driving on highways – Dr. Nico Kämpchen on a test drive (08/2011)

In a few years, Illinois motorists might have to start sharing the road with self-driving vehicles. Self-driving cars are common in cities across the United States, mainly in California. Some states have moved to allow these cars to be fully autonomous, meaning no driver, steering, or even backup driver. These cars will certainly be life-changing. But many people still have a litany of legal, ethical, and safety questions about the cars. These cars could lead to a reduction in the number of accidents and deaths on the road.  If they function correctly, this could make everyone’s life safer.

Why the Push for Self-Driving Cars?

Basically, many who favor self-driving vehicles want them because it will make the roads safer. According to those in favor, too many people die while driving, and not just in Illinois. People across the country lose their lives because of car accidents, and researchers are constantly trying to find different ways to prevent this from happening. Human errors and behavior cause over 94% of fatal car accidents in fact. Proponents of driver-less cars feel that this technology can do a lot better. Without distracted drivers at the wheel, self-driving cars cannot drive impaired and will obey the rules of the road.

Self-Driving Cars: Are They Safe?

self-driving cars

A current Illinois bill would allow manufacturers of self-driving cares to test these cars on Illinois roads. The sponsor said these cars would make roads safer and would also lead to economic growth. According to researchers, this technology may perform better than humans currently perform and thus make roads safer for everyone.

Additionally, this technology poses a lot of benefits for people who should notdrive anymore.For example, many worry about their elderly parents who cannot drive safely anymore. A self-driving car would allow an elderly person the freedom to safely go wherever he or she want to go.

One last concern about self-driving cars is how safe they are on icy roads. Since the cars drive based on the lane markers, researchers work to find ways to help the cars if snow covers the lanes.

Pushback in Illinois Against Allowing Self-Driving Car Testing

Howeer, motorcycle rights activitsts worry about the safety of self-driving cars. They claim the current bill is incomplete because there is no requirement for the systems to detect smaller vehicles.

According to the group opposing the bill, testers should make certain that the self-driving cars can see smaller objects. Due to weather conditions and their size, self-driving cars may not locate motorcyclists. The group wants to ensure that these cars do not contribute to an increase in motorcycle accidents. However, the spokesperson for GM has assured everyone that it will be a few years before these vehicles are even ready. He asserts the cars will be completely safe before they set out on our roads.

The Future of Self-Driving Cars

Whether people like it or not, self-driving cars are most likely going to become more popular around the country. These cars will probably start similar to a taxi-cab service, but expand beyond that as technology improves and the cars become cheaper to produce.

But what happens with liability if a driver of a self-driving car gets into a car accident? Normally, the injured person sues the driver if the driver has been negligent. Now, if a self-driving car is negligent and gets into an accident, and the driver did nothing besides sit behind the wheel, it is unclear whether or not the injured person can sue the driver of the car.

Raising the Bar for Special Education Programs

Special Education

The Supreme Court recently made a decision that insists public schools provide appropriate services for learning disabled students. Under the Supreme Court holding, it will be much harder for schools to refuse to provide programs for students in need. Now, schools cannot get by with the minimal special needs for children. Instead, programs need to be designed so that students can make progress. The school then has to be ready to explain their decisions about special education when the program is challenged.

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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.

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Illinois Sued Over “Separate But Unequal” School Funding

school funding

On February 14, 2017,  Chicago’s school system sued Governor Bruce Rauner and the Illinois board of education. The plaintiffs claim that the Department of Education and Governor violated the civil rights of minority children. They alleged that the state school funding system was prejudiced.  The plaintiffs, five Chicago public schools families, want the state of Illinois to be barred from distributing state aid in a manner that discriminates against the plaintiffs.

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Motorcycle Safety Tips

motorcycle accident

Spring seems to be approaching faster than expected. This means more motorcycles will be out on the road. In fact, with the random spurts of warm weather, many have already seen motorcycles hitting the streets earlier than expected. Drivers and other motorists should be aware of motorcycles and the increased risk of injuries that riders of motorcycles face. Unfortunately, an Illinois resident recently died as a result of a motorcycle accident.

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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/.

2017 Hon. Timothy C. Evans Law School Scholarship

Timothy C. Evans and Ron Wittmeyer

Ron Wittmeyer with Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans and Judge Neil H. Cohen at the 2016 NWSBA’s Judge’s Night

The Timothy C. Evans scholarship was established to honor the commitment and dedication that the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County has devoted to the Northwest Suburban Bar Association (NWSBA) and to the community of Cook County.

Who Is Timothy C. Evans?

As the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Timothy C. Evans presides over one of the largest unified court systems in the world. Cook County has more than 400 Judges and more than 2.4 million cases filed annually. During his tenure as Chief Judge, Judge Evans has innovated safe haven programs for children of parents attending or guardians attending court. Additionally, he has been a tireless champion of expanding opportunities for women and minorities in the court system. Also, Chief Judge Evans led the effort to open the new, domestic violence courthouse located at 555 W. Harrison Street in Chicago, which opened in 2005.

The NWSBA Foundation, which was established to increase the association’s charitable reach, is honored to recognize Judge Evans’ contribution to the legal community through this scholarship.

In 2013, Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans received the NWSBA’s Public Service Award at the NWSBA’s annual Judges’ Night. Also, Judge Evans was in attendance when Judge Neil H. Cohen received the Northwest Suburban Bar Association’s 2016 Public Service Award.

Who Is Eligible for the Timothy C. Evans Scholarship?

The Scholarship is available to law school students currently attending an Illinois accredited law school who reside in the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. This division includes Lake, Kane DuPage, Cook, Will, Kendall, Grundy and LaSalle counties. The law student should have demonstrated a commitment to the highest scholastic standards. Additional considerations include scholastic achievement, involvement in school and extracurricular activities, in addition to financial need.

The deadline to apply for the Hon. Timothy C. Evans law school scholarship is March 23, 2017.

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.

About the Firm


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

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