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Light It Up…Safely – Fireworks Safety

In a few weeks, all over the Chicago suburbs, families and friends gather together to celebrate Independence Day. The Fourth of July celebration and festivities are always fun filled. We enjoy the colorful parades, hot barbecues, and spectacular fireworks shows. Of course, some risks exist with parades and barbecues. But fireworks safety needs a special focus.

According to the National Fire Protection Agency, 18,500 fireworks-related fires are reported each year, including 1,300 building fires, 300 automobile fires, and 16,900 outside and other fires. On average each year, fireworks are responsible for three deaths, 40 injuries, and $43 million in property damage. The NFPA reports that in 2015, 11,900 people were treated in the United States’s hospitals for fireworks-related injuries. Of those treated, 51% were injuries to limbs while 41% were injuries to the head.

The NFPA advises against buying and using consumer grade fireworks. Due to the risks associated with pyrotechnics as well as the quality of the fireworks, leave it to the professionals. Recently, a 15-year-old in Davenport, Iowa sustained injuries to his hand from consumer grade fireworks. The teenager headed to Peoria, Illinois for surgery on the hand. However, doctors had to amputate the hand.

Additionally, even the “safe” fireworks cause injuries. Many Americans buy sparklers and firecrackers. And while families, especially kids, love these products, many suffer burns. Sparklers burn hot enough to sustain third-degree burns. The NFPA reports that sparklers make up 25% of firework injuries treated in emergency rooms.

Fireworks Safety Tips

memorial day

With the approaching Fourth of July holiday, remember these fireworks safety tips.

Follow local firework laws and ordinances

While a rural town may have more lax fireworks safety ordinances, not all neighborhoods follow those same casual rules. Check your local community rules and regulations regarding the use of fireworks before purchasing and using fireworks. In Illinois, the Illinois’ Pyrotechnic Use Act bans the sale, possession, and use of those “consumer fireworks.” This includes bottle rockets, roman candles, and firecrackers.

Properly dispose of fireworks after use

If you seek to break Illinois law, please properly dispose of fireworks. Get the objects wet and place them in a metal trash can away from any buildings. Even if the firework does not launch, “duds” can still re-light. Be sure to never relight a “dud” firework. According to Davenport Fire Chief Lynn Washburn, “you just let it be and wait fifteen to twenty minutes and then put it in a bucket of water.”

Do not use consumer grade or homemade fireworks…but if you do, be smart.

According to NFPA’s Dan Doofus, do not use consumer fireworks because “they are too dangerous” and responsible most firework-related injuries. Additionally, avoid making your own homemade fireworks. Again, if you seek to break Illinois law, when using fireworks in a home or residential setting, read all of the directions on the packaging. Make sure the product is safe for use. However, as always, use caution and wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from any potential injuries.

Keep a close eye on children at firework events

According to the NFPA, most injuries affect children and teenagers. Be sure to monitor children in situations where fireworks are present. And remember to never give children fireworks!

Keep your pets safe from fireworks as well

Pets easily startled by the loud noises associated with fireworks. For this reason, do not bring your pets should to fireworks shows. Regardless of the size of the show, your pet could run away if it gets startled. Additionally, if you seek to break Illinois law and use fireworks at home, be sure to keep your pet inside in an interior room to keep the animal from hearing the loud, bombastic noises. In the event an animal does run away during a firework display after being startled, always make sure your pet has updated identification tags so others can return your pet to you.

Leave it to the firework experts, and go to a professional firework show

Most importantly, having your own firework display in Illinois is illegal.

In Arlington Heights, if you get caught with fireworks, in addition to potential injury, you will pay a fine. Additionally, the state can charge you with a misdemeanor and arrest you.

To ensure your safety and to stay within the boundaries of the law, leave the firework shows to the professionals. Removing the hazardous element to your Fourth of July celebration allows you and your family to enjoy the holiday with any added risks.

Happy Fourth of July from all of us at R.F. Wittmeyer!

Got the Summer Blues? – The Mississippi Valley Blues Festival

Attending a Bluesfest is a relaxing way to enjoy the summer weather and hear some fantastic live music, although a short road trip may be necessary.  Many great Bluesfests can be found around the Midwest, especially in historical river towns along the Mississippi River.

Blues is an authentic American music genre, which started in the South around the turn of the 20th century.  As the African American community, which created the blues, moved up from the south in the 1940’s and early 50’s to cities like Chicago and Detroit, the Blues evolved from an acoustic music to the electric blues, backed by drums, bass, and at times, horns. The Blues went on the become the foundation for rock and roll– not a bad pedigree.

American blues artists currently have a huge following in Europe, Japan, and other foreign countries, but blues music continues to have a loyal following in the US as well. Many people I talk to are only familiar with the slow blues, and not the up-tempo blues tunes that are much of what you’ll hear at a Bluesfest. Most of the tunes have a great toe-tappin’ groove, great singers, blistering guitar, and solid backup musicians.

Mississippi Valley Blues Festival

A Bluesfest can make for a relaxing, economical, weekend get-away. One of our favorite Bluesfests is the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival (MVBF), held in beautiful LeClaire Park, on the banks of the Mississippi River in Davenport, Iowa. The MVBF, in its 30th year, blues acts on two stages during the 4th of July weekend.

One stage is the ornate permanent band shell, with acoustics that really projects the sound out all across the park. The other is a large circus tent, which has the effect of containing and channeling the sound throughout the tent. The two stage format, with the acts staggered, allows you to catch at least a portion of all the acts. There is typically plenty of room to stretch out, with minimal lines for food, drinks, and restrooms. All you need is your lawn chair, a few bucks for beer and food, and you’re ready to kick back and enjoy some great live music.

The MVBF, like many bluesfests, is put on by the local blues society–in this case, the Mississippi Valley Blues Society. The MVBF always has a wide variety of blues performers as well as top national headliners.  You can easily catch more than a dozen acts over two days. Some of our past favorites were blues guitar icon, Joe Louis Walker, Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers, and the Koko Taylor tribute.

Since we’ve been going, the MVBF always seems to have a strong cast of female vocalists who can really belt it out, backed by great bands. This year is no exception. You can check out the line-up of artists here as well as find detailed information about the MVBF: http://mvbs.org/blues-fest.php.

And, blues artists love to perform for an enthusiastic crowd.  Blues musicians are performers first, and recording artists second. This isn’t pop or rap — no big recording contracts here. These talented artists do it for the love of the music, and it shows in the good time they have performing.

So, for $15 on Friday and $20 on Saturday, you can enjoy world-class musical talent in a small and relaxed outdoor venue. You can also save $5 by purchasing your tickets in advance so this festival is a real deal!

I don’t know if it’s the music that puts everyone in a such a great mood, or whether relaxed people are just attracted to bluesfests, but the crowd always seems to be mellow, friendly, and appreciative of the great performances.

So, where do you find more info on bluesfests?  Check out this awesome website, chalk full of blues info, including a calendar of local, national, and international bluesfests: www.bluesfestivalguide.com. Or contact me anytime, at [email protected]

Enjoy the summer of 2017 and drive safe!

Summer 2017 Road Construction Projects

As summer begins, remember to add extra time to your trips to ensure your safety due to road construction. Road construction can lead to car accidents, truck accidents, and bike accidents. Additionally, with many people enjoying the weather, be careful of distracted drivers or individuals who may be driving under the influence. To keep the workers and yourself safe, stay off your phone and drive safely this summer.

Suburban Construction

The Illinois Department of Transportation provides a map of the largest construction projects each year. For a clickable map, check out the IDOT website.

However, a few examples of major suburban roadwork includes:

  • In Des Plaines, finishing touches continue at the I-90 and IL-83 (Elmhurst Rd.) interchange. This affects Oakton St., Elmhurst St., and Busse Rd.
  • In Schaumburg, Higgins Rd. (IL-72) will undergo roadwork which may lead to long delays. The construction will occur west of I-294, just south of Woodfield.
  • Near O’Hare, major roadwork will occur on Irving Park Rd. in Bensenville until September. Since this is a major thoroughfare for trucks, please be very careful. If you have been injured in a truck accident near O’Hare, please contact the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. today.

Chicago Construction

In the city of Chicago, several major roads are undergoing major road construction. According to WGN,

  • Lakeshore Drive will undergo structural improvements and repairs at the LaSalle Drive Viaduct beginning mid-summer. Expect some lane closures on Lake Shore Drive. However, the Chicago Department of Transportation will try to work around peak rush hours. Nonetheless, the work may take eight months to complete.
  • Grand Avenue reconstruction is underway between Pulaski and Chicago.  One lane will be maintained in each direction throughout the project with one exception. Between late June to July, Grand Avenue will be fully closed at Homan for five weeks under the railroad viaduct.Work will continue throughout 2017.
  • For other Chicago roadwork information, check out the list from WGN.

Real-Time Traffic Reports

As you head out, make sure to check the local traffic reports, which include construction delays. We recommend all of the local news networks, especially NBC Chicago.

 

Elder Abuse – How to Spot It

elder abuse

One of TV’s most successful dramas follows attorney Jimmy McGill in his small-time law practice. In the course of the first season of AMC’s Better Call Saul, McGill uncovers a nursing home money scam and opens an elder abuse case. While this story line makes for great television, in reality, real senior citizens do not receive the respect and care they deserve. In the state of Illinois, reports show that 76,000 elders are victims of elder abuse. But what exactly is elder abuse?

What is elder abuse?

The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse defines elder abuse as any form of abuse or neglect that causes harm or loss to an elderly person. The abuse could come at the hands of family members, caregivers, or nursing home workers.

Seniors can suffer

  • loss of independence,
  • their homes,
  • financial earnings and savings,
  • through their health,
  • loss of dignity, and
  • loss of security.

Unfortunately, elders who have experienced abuse have a shorter life expectancy than elders who have not experienced abuse.

If you have noticed any neglect of a senior citizen that includes any of these effects, call the experienced lawyers at The Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. Contact us to help evaluate your case and advise you of your legal options.

What forms of elder abuse are there?

There are six major forms of neglect:

  • physical abuse,
  • sexual abuse,
  • domestic violence,
  • psychological abuse,
  • financial abuse,
  • neglect, or
  • health care fraud or abuse.

Although each of these forms of neglecy have specific legal definitions, below are some details of each type of abuse. If any of these definitions apply to a loved one or to you, please contact the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. today for a free consultation about the neglect or other nursing home injuries.

Types of Elder Abuse

Physical abuse includes more than just hitting, pushing, or shoving an elder. Other types of abuse include improperly using drugs, restraining the elderly person, or confining the person.

An elder can suffer emotional abuse, either verbally or nonverbally. Examples of verbal abuse include the use of intimidation via yelling, humiliation, or frequent blaming or scapegoating. Nonverbal emotional abuse can occur when people ignore the elderly person, separate them from friends or regular activities, or terrorize the individual.

Elder sexual abuse occurs when a person makes any sexual contact with an elderly person without consent. Showing sexual explicit materials to elderly persons also constitutes sexual abuse.

Domestic violence occurs between the elder and an intimate partner.

Financial abuse occurs whenever a person inappropriately uses an elderly person’s funds, property, or other assets. These inappropriate uses can take the form of large withdrawals from bank accounts, changes in the elderly person’s financial stability, wills, power of attorney, titles, or policy changes that seem strange or unlikely, unpaid bills, or unreasonable and unnecessary subscriptions to services or goods.

While the first five are self-explanatory, neglect can occur when a caregiver fails to provide necessary and proper care or in the form of self-neglect, the failure to provide for one’s own essential needs.

Healthcare fraud occurs when an elderly person is put into the care of an institution. This institution acts as the elderly person’s caregiver and many times is responsible for paying the person’s bills and other basic and necessary tasks. Healthcare abuse can occur in the forms of duplicate billing for medical services, overmedicated or undermedicated, and subpar care for the elderly person. Many times healthcare providers provide inadequate care due to lack of trained workers, overcrowding of facilities, or poor follow-up and responses to questions regarding care.

What are the signs of elder abuse?

Many times, signs of elder abuse can seem like symptoms of dementia, or caregivers may state that an elder’s actions are due to dementia. While many signs of elder abuse reflect signs of dementia, the following signs of abuse should not be dismissed:

  • Regular period of tension or arguments between the elderly person and his or her caregiver
  • Changes in the personality of the elderly person
  • Changes in the behavior of the elderly person

While these signs do not always stem from cases of elder abuse, it is important to check on an elderly person when these signs are present. If you have seen any of these signs in regards to a relative or loved one, contact the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. for a free consultation today. Experienced attorneys can help you identify the signs of elder abuse when you need information.

How do you report elder abuse?

Many people do not know who to turn to when they see their loved ones suffering abuse. First, you can contact the experienced senior citizen care and nursing home abuse attorneys at the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. Our consultations are free and confidential. Additionally, you are under no obligation to choose our law firm.

If you want other information, the state of Ilinois has several agencies to fight against elder abuse. These three agencies are

  1. the Adult Protective Services,
  2. Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, and
  3. Legal Services Development Program.

First, according to the Illinois Department on Aging, Adult Protective Services acknowledges the right for elderly people “to live in dignity and safety, free from mistreatment of any kind.” Illinois’s Adult Protect Services responds to reports of elder abuse. The program helps to represent and protect persons 60 years or older that live in a specific community.

Additionally, the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program aims to promote the rights of elderly person and to protect those rights in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes.t

Lastly, the Legal Services Development Program provides legal services and advice for elders.

However, there are many different ways to report elder abuse depending upon what kind of elder abuse is occurring. For example, to file a claim regarding discrimination or sexual harassment, contact the Illinois Department of Human Rights via phone or letter to either their Chicago or Springfield office. However, remember to follow the specific filing deadlines found online at https://www.illinois.gov/aging.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. can assist you with any of these needs.

Senior Helpline

The Adult Protective Services Program maintains a Senior Helpline that provides assistance to elders. According to the Senior Helpline website, the program follows a HELP mantra, an acronym that states the program’s mission to (1) Help elders local necessary services in their community, (2) Evaluate elders needs as well as answer questions, (3) Link elders to coordination services within their areas, and (4) Provide information.  The Helpline is not only for elders but for their caregivers as well. The organization works in coalition with the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program, legal services, transportation, employment, and nutrition services.

The Senior Helpline is available Monday through Friday 8:30am to 5:00pm Central Standard Time by dialing 1-800-252-8966 or emailing at [email protected]. For 24-hour assistant, dial 1-866-800-1409 for the Adult Protective Services Hotline.

Ride-Sharing Safety with Uber or Lyft


According to a new study, ride-sharing companies like Uber or Lyft harm the Chicago cab industry. The new study states that 40% of all medallions are inactive with hundreds more in foreclosure or nearing foreclosure. Municipalities use medallions as a permit to drive a taxi.

Why Use Ride-Sharing

So, why the shift from hailing a taxi to ordering an Uber or Lyft on a smartphone?

Ride-sharing services are becoming much more attractive to Chicagoans and suburbanites alike due to the program’s lack of money exchange between riders and drivers. However, ride sharing users should use caution when using these services.  2014 Chicago City Council ordinance that made Uber and Lyft active within the city of Chicago also allowed company drivers to work in the city without taxi medallions, city-regulated fare, fingerprinting or other standards cab companies and their drivers must follow. Though Lyft has instituted its own background check policy, Uber does not have one in place. These obsolete regulations have caused unfortunate circumstances for ride-sharing users.

A 2014 Chicago City Council ordinance failed to regulate ride-sharing companies with the same restrictions. Drivers could work in the city without taxi medallions, city-regulated fare, fingerprinting that other cab companies and drivers must follow. Additionally, although Lyft has instituted its own background check policy, Uber does not have one in place.

This lack of regulations has led to some horrible outcomes. In October 2015, a Boston Uber driver was sentenced to 10-12 years in prison for kidnapping and assaulting his passenger. Similar situations have occurred in San Francisco and Tallahassee. Situations range from drivers threatening to harm passengers to random people acting as Uber drivers attempting to lure people into their vehicles.

Safety Tips for Ride-Sharers

Both Uber and Lyft’s websites provide passengers with safety tips. Here are several tips to keep in mind the next time you need to take a quick trip to Chicago!

Be a backseat rider

Uber advises passengers to ride in the backseat of the vehicle if traveling alone. This ensures the safety of the passenger by allowing her to exit the vehicle with ease in the event that a traffic-related emergency occurs. However, a backseat rider also gives the driver and passenger space. Ultimately, this separation empowers the passenger to take control of any situation. Always keep an exit strategy in case of emergency. Additionally, make sure that the driver does not use their phone while driving. Even as a rider, keep aware of distracted driving.

Share your trip details with a friend

A ride-sharing passenger should share the details of their upcoming travel with a friend or family member. According to Uber spokesperson Kayla Whaling, Uber users can easily share details of their journey through the Uber application. “A family member or a friend who received the link from the rider can actually see the car moving along the distance, and they can see when that person arrives.” Friends and family can access the information by downloading the Uber app to their smartphone. Sharing this information with another person helps to account for any variances in a person’s trip that could lead to unplanned and unfortunate injury.

Protect your personal information

Uber also advises users to not give out their phone number or other personal information to their driver. Riders should use the Uber or Lyft app for all contact. This protects everyone’s information

Verify the identity of the driver and their care before you enter the vehicle

Verifying the identity of the ride-sharing driver before getting in the car. Applications like Uber and Lyft provide

  • the driver’s first name,
  • photo,
  • the vehicle’s license plate number,
  • a visual of the vehicle, and
  • the driver’s rating.

This information is given to prevent passengers from getting into the incorrect vehicle. Unlike traditional taxi cabs that have a tax service emblem on the exterior, no such requirement exists for Uber and Lyft vehicles. Confirming the identity of the driver and the car is the easiest and best way to ensure that the vehicle you are getting in is the correct one.

Wait inside for your ride to come

Uber and Lyft encourage passengers to order their vehicles from inside a building. Then you should wait inside until the vehicle has arrived. Only then should you exit the building since you know the information about the car from the app. The appl also notifies the rider of their vehicle’s arrival. You have no need to wait outside to visibly see when the vehicle arrives! This reduces the chance of passengers being harmed while waiting outside in the dark on the street or in an alley because they can safely wait while in a secure building.

Take note of your driver’s rating

Uber and Lyft allow passengers to rate their driver and experience. Positive ratings lead to a driver being more marketable and desirable for subsequent riders. The rating system encourages good behavior among drivers. Additionally, it provides a tool for riders when considering whether or not they want to ride with a particular driver. Uber provides 24/7 rating monitoring and customer services. Lyft states that any driver that a rider rates 3 stars or below will never be matched with the rider again. Use these ratings to your advantage when selecting a driver for your trip.

Follow your intuition

Like most safety precautions, always follow your intuition and your gut feeling. The Uber website advises passengers to trust what their intuition is telling them. If your gut is telling you to not ride with a specific driver, cancel the driver and try ordering a different one, and, as always, in the event of an emergency, dial 911.

Remember these tips the next time to order an Uber or Lyft, and your journey will be a safe and enjoyable one! However, if you or someone you love has been injured by a ride-sharing car, please contact the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. today for a free consultation.

Country Roads – How to Stay Safe

country road

In 1971, singer-songwriter John Denver sang the words “country roads, take me home.” Here in the Midwest, we understand those words quite well. Country roads lead us to friends, families, and activities. Driving down country roads are a frequent summer pass time for drivers for all ages. We love to drive down them slowly taking our time and taking in the sunshine. We love to pull off to the side of them and fish in a hidden creek. But even with less traffic and a serene environment, you must stay safe while driving. In fact, less traffic and population on these roads bring different problems than in-town driving such as weather, animals, the make-up of the roads, and other country road utilizers. According to the Illinois Farm Bureau, keep these three things in mind when using country roads for summer driving.

[Read more…]

Memorial Day Weekend -with Unfortunate Travel

memorial day

Memorial Day Weekend: It’s the kick-off of the summer season, barbecue festivities, and summer travel. Imagine relaxing by the pool and sipping on cold lemonade. Picture eating a hot dog fresh off the grill dance. However, first, we need to get there. The worst par of the all-American cookout remains traveling on congested highways and interstates.

According to Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), most vehicle collisions relate to the driver, the type and size of the vehicle, and the roadway making the road a pretty hazardous way to travel to fun activities.

Here are a few tips to keep you and your family safe this Memorial Day weekend.

Always Wear Seatbelts

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2015 data, 42% of nationwide motor vehicles fatalities involved unbuckled vehicle occupants. Both the driver and all passengers must wear seatbelts in a moving vehicle. Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn says buckling up is not only the law and a matter of common sense. But a driver’s and passenger’s best chance at surviving a car accident includes wearing the belt. As a part of Illinois’s “Click It or Ticket” campaign, law enforcement cracks down on violators. The State’s new “Border to Border” Operation enforces its zero-tolerance ticketing policy by ticketing seatbelt violators regardless of differing state’s seatbelt laws.

In short: if you are in the state of Illinois and in a car, you must buckle up. It can save you and your wallet!

memorial day

Don’t Drive Distracted this Memorial Day

According to IDOT, 16% of police-reported traffic-related crashes are the direct result of distracted driving. The most crucial element of roadway safety is the driver’s maintenance of undivided attention on the road and her surroundings. With congested roadways and the chance of bumper to bumper traffic, IDOT urges drivers to be alert and avoid distractions. Distracted driving includes a multitude of activities:

  • texting and driving,
  • driving while drowsy whether caused by medications or lack of sleep,
  • driving while under the influence of alcohol or another illegal substance,
  • eating while driving and
  • anything other activity that is not driving vehicle only.

These distractions cause potential harm to the distracted driver, passengers, and other drivers on the road. While drivers are allowed to utilize hands-free devices such as Bluetooth enables calling services provide through headpieces and car radios, hands-free devices can cause distractions in instances of uncooperating technology as well as emotional or heated conversations.

Defensive Driving

In order to ensure safe travels when traveling this Memorial Day weekend, IDOT recommends defensive driving. But what is actually entailed in being a defensive driver?

A defensive driver is one who

  • prepares for the unexpected,
  • controls her speed by following set traffic speeds and weather conditions,
  • leaves a safe amount of space when following another driver,
  • remains undistracted and alert, and respects and watches fellow drivers.

Ultimately, a driver must analyze conditions and alter their performance to the circumstances. This awareness while driving creates safer road conditions for all drivers and a safe arrival for you and your family to your holiday destination.

Summer Time Construction

Summer means road construction projects. The Illinois Department of Transportation asks for drivers to drive slow, eliminate distractions, and be alert for workers when driving through construction zones. Many drivers believe these rules exist to protect construction workers. In fact, a motorist is more likely to be the victim instead of workers. Per IDOT’s data collected, on average in the years of 2010 to 2014, 4,500 work zone motor vehicle accidents occurred resulting in almost 1,100 injuries and 27 fatalities. Of those 27 fatalities, only two were road construction workers. Mindful, defensive driving protects both yourself and the workers.

Sharing is Caring

A core principle of safe driving is sharing the road with other drivers and other vehicles. This includes other roadway users, semis, tractors, or emergency personnel vehicles as well as any other motor vehicle or pedestrian on the road. Be courteous of others on the road by moving over for vehicles on the shoulder of the road, pulling over for emergency vehicles, using your hazards signals when weather or road conditions deem necessary, and exercising basic courtesy to others on the road.

However, if you are involved in a truck accident, contact the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd.

Follow the Rules of the Road

The rules of the road are the basic principles that guide how we drive in the state of Illinois. Safe drivers abide by these rules including speed limits, stop and yield signs, and traffic signals as well as cooperating with any special driving situations and hazards that you may come across in your travels. Pay attention to when a speed limit lowers, you face a detour, and for inactive stoplights. Defensive driving and taking your time can save your life.

By following these tips, you can help yourself and your family enjoys your holiday weekend without any unfortunate delays.

Have a great and safe holiday weekend!

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.

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

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.

About the Firm


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

About Ron

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