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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.

 

Chicago Holiday Safe Driving Tips

Holiday Safe DrivingWe hear it every winter – this one is going to be bad. From the Farmer’s Almanac to local weatherpeople, Chicago prepares for the worst! However, even with bad weather, people like to travel and need holiday safe driving tips. People cross state lines to see their family and friends. To ensure that everyone has a safe and fun holiday, remember to drive safely and pay attention to weather conditions. [Read more…]

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…]

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…]

Pokemon Go: A New Distraction

25914117692_5d42261ac7_zRecently, Pokemon Go became one of the most popular apps of all time as users downloaded it over 100 million times. Needless to say, the game has become popular among adolescents who finally have a video game they can play outside, to the older generation who grew up playing and watching Pokemon. Now, everyone who has a smart phone can become a Pokemon trainer. Even with its popularity, there has been a backlash by concerned parents, drivers, and authorities. Recently, many people wonder how to play the game safely.

How Pokemon Go Causes Injuries

  • Not paying attention to their surroundings and run into something;
  • Walking around late at night and lacking awareness of the neighborhood
  • Not traveling in large groups when playing the game late at night;
  • Walking into the street chasing a rare Pokemon.

Pokemon Go and Crime

pokemon-1555036_960_720In order to play Pokemon Go, players have to get out of their house and walk around. Unfortunately, a lot of people keep their eyes glued to their phone instead of paying attention to their surroundings. Many people have heard about the stabbings and robberies that happened to people who were playing the game. Pokemon Go players become an easy target because they are not paying attention. They hold their phones in their hand (many thieves steal phones) and Pokemon Go players stay out late at night.

On one occasion, two young players were out playing Pokemon Go at 2am. Seven people confronted the players and demanded their wallets. One girl refused and they stabbed in the arm. Another incident occurred when robbers used lure modules to lure people into a trap. Lure modules can be seen by all players, and they bring Pokemon to the place that the lure module is set up. When the players arrived to the lure module, criminals rob them. Law enforcement agencies have warned people that the game could leave players vulnerable to criminals.

Distracted By Pokemon Go

Not only can being unaware of one’s surroundings lead to a robbery, but it can also cause someone to trip and fall and become injured. The game warns players to always pay attention to their surroundings when the game first starts up. However, many ignore those warning. One expert claims that injuries occur to distracted players while they walk. Two people who ignored the warning actually fell off of a bluff in California. The men were in their twenties, and they were trying to catch Pokemon when they fell off the side of the 75 foot bluff. Firefighters responded to the scene and took the injured players to the hospital where they suffered moderate injuries. According to the firefighters, the men crossed over a fenced area just to get to the Pokemon. Unfortunately, many other stories exist where players trespassed and injuries ensued.

Pokemon Go and Driving

english_pokemon_logo-svgUnfortunately, people are in fact playing this game while driving. Add this to the number of distractions for drivers, which could lead to more car accidents, especially since the game is growing in popularity and, according to fans, is very addicting. The AAA is very worried about the game since it sucks the player into the game and is more distracting than a text message. Although the game disables some features when the player is traveling over twenty miles per hour, accidents have still occurred because people have been playing the game while driving.

One accident occurred when a van struck a parked city police cruiser because he was playing Pokemon Go. Fortunately, the officers were standing on the sidewalk when the crash occurred, so none were injured. The body camera of an officer captured the  collision and the driver I heard in the video complaining about how he should not have been playing the game.

How to play Pokemon Go Safely

Pokemon Go is a great game. It brings people together, and people of all ages can play the game. Parents can finally rejoice because a video game has been invented that requires kids to go outdoors and play instead of sitting inside on a nice day. With that being said, there are a few things that every player should keep in mind:

  • Always be aware of your surroundings. It says that in the game, but make sure you do not trip over anything.
  • Do not trespass on someone’s lawn. Even if it is a very rare Pokemon.
  • Always travel with a group of people if you are going to go out catching Pokemon. A robbery is less likely to happen if you travel with a big group of people.
  • Do not run into the middle of the street chasing a Pokemon.
  • Finally, do not play the game while you are driving.

Follow these guidelines for a more enjoyable experience without injury. Gotta catch ’em all!

Driverless Cars: Are They Safe?

Driverless Car at Geneva Auto Show

For many years, fictional television shows, movies, and books displayed the wonders of driverless cars. Today, driverless cars may become more common on the road. It seems that driverless cars line the roadways the future as more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon due to inventors at Google and Tesla, to name a few. The autopilot feature manages its own speed in traffic, change lanes, and even park on its own. Although they grab the attention of the media, drivers do not yet sit behind the steering wheels. But a recent accident involving a man killed after crashing into an 18-wheeler tractor trailer with the autopilot on his driverless car engaged. How safe is this feature and driverless cars?

What is autopilot?

Autopilot is an enhanced version of cruise control. The features uses cameras, radar, ultrasonic sound, and other software to navigate the roadway. The car automatically responds to traffic ahead by changing lanes or adjusting speed using this technology. The car should avoid hazards and reduce the amount of work that the driver has to do. Although a driver cannot nap behind the wheel, the enhancements provides a driver with one step past the cruise control technology – all to hope to reduce the number of car accidents.

NHTSA rating for driverless cars

Google_driverless_car_at_intersection.gkThe NHTSA has five levels to serve as guidelines for autonomous driving (numbered 0 to 4).

  • Level 0 – no degree of automation. The driver has complete control over the car and is entirely responsible for controlling every aspect of the car.
  • Level 1 – some basic technological help, such as electronic stability control or pre-charged brakes. Almost every car on the road today meets this level.
  • Level 2 – combined function automation. It specifies the use of several functions at once, such as lane centering and cruise control.
  • Level 3 – allows the car to take over completely in certain situations like highway driving. But the car expects the driver to take control.
  • Level 4 – requires no assistance from the driver to get from point A to point B in no time.

What happened in Florida?

Florida was the first known fatal accident where the autopilot feature was engaged. The driver of the driverless car was apparently watching a Harry Potter movie while behind the wheel. He was apparently driving so fast that the truck he crashed into did not even see him. This crash was a significant setback and public relations nightmare for the creators of the driverless car. It appears that the car’s sensors system against a bright spring sky failed to distinguish between the sky and a white eighteen wheeler. The creatos warned the driver of the autopilot car  to always pay attention while operating the driverless car and keep his hands on the wheel, but he failed to follow these directions.

Some concerns with driverless cars

Some of the main concerns with driverless cars is that they are in the level three territory, which still requires the driver to remain in control of the vehicle and alert at all times, but this lulls people into thinking that the car is a level 4. Many youtube videos have emerged where drivers of these driverless cars are reading the newspaper, playing games, and doing other activities while using the autopilot feature. If the driver was using a level 4 car, this would be completely fine, but since the driverless cars are only level 3, these activities are very dangerous. Some have even called for companies to rename the autopilot function since it sounds too much like the driver can sit back and relax while the autopilot takes over.

So, is a driverless car safer?

Driverless Cars GoogleWhen one looks at the big picture, driver error is the leading cause of car-accident related injuries. In fact, driver error is responsible for ninety four percent of the car accidents in the United States. Some people believe that driverless cars will save thousands of lives each year. Seeing as how the autopilot system has caused only one death in 130 million miles of road, and Americans average one death per 94 million miles driven, the driverless system may be safer. Even though these cars are labeled “driverless”, drivers still need to remain alert and attentive while behind the wheel. Since these cars are only level three, they are not completely automatic.

Is Illinois Bicycle Friendly?

bicycle safetyOver the past decade, sparked by changes in technology, increases in the cost of fuel, and pushes towards renewable energy, bicycling has become more and more popular, but Illinois still doesn’t seem very bicycle friendly, which puts riders at a bicycle safety risk. It is not uncommon to see bicyclers riding in all types of weather during the spring, summer, fall, and sometimes even winter months. Some towns have designated bike trails and paths alongside the roadway. Yet, most cyclists would be surprised if they found out that, according to an 18- year-old Illinois Supreme Court precedent, they are not necessarily intended users of public ways, including popular riding paths and trails.

Bicyclists are permitted users of roadways, but not intended users

In Boub v. Township of Wayne, which took place in 1998, the Illinois Supreme Court held that a cyclist is only a permitted user of a roadway, not an intended user. The court pointed to precedents in the past that indicated that while while intended users are also permitted users, permitted users are not necessarily intended users. The court found that, if no signs or other markings specifically indicate that the roadway is intended for bicycle use, then cyclists are not intended users of the roadway. One of the justices dissented, claiming that the majority’s holding was, as a principal of public policy, both irrational and dangerous. The majority holding in the Boub case discourages municipalities from making roads safer for bicyclists.

Unfortunately, Illinois has not kept up with the growth of bicycling since 1998.

Is Chicago Becoming More Bike Friendly?

Many cities across the state have been taking steps to become more bicycle friendly. Chicago, for instance, is one city that has seen a surge in the number of cyclists, but has taken steps to become more bicycle friendly. Currently, Chicago has more than two hundred miles of on-street protected, buffered, and shared bike lanes, and miles of off-street paths.  Chicago has plans to build up to 645 miles in bike lanes by 2020. These bike lanes will help citizens of Chicago feel safe and comfortable while bicycling on the streets.

Three principles guiding Chicago’s plan to become more bicycle friendly

  • Provide a bicycle accommodation within ½ mile of every Chicago resident
  • Provide a greater number of bikeways where more people live
  • Increase the amount of infrastructure where ridership is high, while establishing a strong backbone where ridership is currently lower, but has the potential to grow.

The goal is to make Chicago one of the best places for cycling in the US, and they are well on their way.

Time for a change?

bicycle safety helmetChicago is not the only city that has become more bicycle friendly. Other urban cities in Illinois have also been recognized as being bike friendly. Some of these cities include: Urbana, Naperville, Evanston, Elmhurst, and Warrenville. While Chicago and other cities have made clear markings and trails that show that bicyclists are intended users, the law is still the same in these cities. If a city has signs, markings, bike paths, special traffic lights for bicyclists, or anything that specifically states that the intention is to improve access for bicyclists, then a bicyclist is an intended user of the roadway, and municipalities are more likely to be liable if a bicycler is injured by a defect in the roadway. If there are no signs, markings, or anything that specifically states that a bicycler is the intended user of the roadway, then a municipality is immune from liability since the bicycler is not an intended user. The problem is that it is impossible to mark every area as an area designated for bicyclers, and if a bicycler crashes in one of these unmarked areas, the municipality is not responsible. There is no uniformity.

What can be done?

If a person driving a car or motorcycle crashes because of a defect in the road, they will be treated differently than a cyclist who crashes because of a defect. This approach does not make a lot of sense, since a lot of municipalities focus on bicycle safety, putting good public policy at odds with the law. A relatively simple solution exists that would level the playing field and solve this problem: the Illinois legislature should pass legislation that declares bicyclers are both intended and permitted users of roadways.

Different advocacy groups for bicyclers in Illinois have tried to propose legislation in the past,but they have not been successful. The legislature could clarify the duty owed to bicyclers and this would encourage more people to use bicycles. And in the end, this could reduce the number of bicycle accidents in Illinois.

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.

Safety Systems – Blue Line Accident

To reduce the possibility of an public transportation accident, there are many  safety systems currently in place. Many more safety measures are being researched every day. However, on March 24, these safety systems did not fully work as a CTA Blue Line train jumped the track, came off of the platform, and crashed into an escalator leading into O’Hare Airport. A spokesman for Lutheran General Hospital said that seven people were treated for minor “whiplash-type” injuries. In total, 32 individuals were treated for injuries from this train accident. Whether or not the train was speeding or whether the safety systems were working probably is not yet clear yet. Either way, below are a few safety systems that were in place or should have been in place on Monday. [Read more…]

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

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