Children often the victims of pedestrian accidents

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The most common cause of death for children under the age of 15 is car crashes, and over one-fifth were on foot rather than in a vehicle, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Traffic Safety Facts for 2012. Another 11,000 child pedestrians were injured that year, and more than 1,600 of those were in Illinois.

Risks for children on or near roadways and in parking lots are much greater because their small size makes it difficult for drivers to see them in time to stop. They are also less likely to follow pedestrian traffic rules and are often unable to accurately judge distances and speeds of oncoming vehicles.

Distracted driving and speeding increase danger to children in crosswalks

In order to highlight the risks of children and car accidents, Safe Kids Worldwide’s Department of Evaluation and Research conducted a national study in the United States during the 2008-2009 school year. The results revealed that one in six drivers in school zones were distracted. A distraction is anything that takes the driver’s eyes, hands or attention away from the road. Fifty-five percent of the distracted drivers passed through during after-school hours as children were leaving. An inattentive driver going 30 miles per hour typically takes 100 feet or more to come to a complete stop, which is not enough time to react when a child enters a crosswalk.

While an attentive driver needs approximately 45 feet to come to a stop, a driver in the same situation who is going five miles per hour over the posted speed limit will hit the child at about 18 miles per hour. This amount of force has the potential to cause major injuries, and even death, and the danger of injury or fatality corresponds with the increased speed of the vehicle. The most common types of pedestrian injuries are broken bones in the legs, lacerations and head trauma. Of these, traumatic brain injury is often the most devastating because of the physical, mental and emotional damage that are a common result.

Driver and pedestrian caution can prevent accidents

Drivers can reduce the likelihood of a injuring or killing a child by observing posted speed limits, maintaining constant focus on the task of driving, and exhibiting extra care in school zones and intersections. Parents can reduce the danger for their children by teaching them pedestrian safety. This includes walking on sidewalks or against traffic on the shoulder, crossing at designated crosswalks or intersections, and wearing light colored clothing and carrying a flashlight after dark.

When children are victims of pedestrian accidents, family members often benefit from the advice of a personal injury attorney who is familiar with the Illinois legal system and can obtain full compensation to cover medical bills, pain and suffering.

 

Clearinghouse proposal seeks to prevent truck accidents

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When commercial vehicle operators test positive for alcohol or drugs or refuse to take a mandatory test to prove sobriety, their professional driver’s licenses are suspended or revoked. Employers do not currently have a single resource that shows the record of all potential employees, which makes it difficult to ensure that unsafe drivers are kept off the road.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has put forward a rule that would establish a database for temporarily or permanently suspended commercial driver’s licenses. In the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, a recently proposed transportation bill, Congress has included this plan in order to reduce the number of annual truck accidents on the roadways in Illinois and across the country.

Records of driver infractions should be available for employers

Before employment, federal regulations require that commercial driver’s license holders have their qualifications screened based on driving records to prevent truck accident injuries. Employers must conduct random drug and alcohol tests, as well. Commercial drivers fail alcohol or drug tests when there is a blood alcohol content of .04 percent or greater, or there is evidence of a controlled substance in the system. Either result requires that the employer immediately remove an operator from performing any safety-sensitive job such as driving a commercial vehicle. An employee must successfully complete a return-to-duty process before qualifying to get back behind the wheel. Data available in the recommended clearinghouse would consist of the following:

  • Records of those drivers who failed a mandatory drug or alcohol test
  • Drivers who refused to take a test
  • Drivers who successfully completed a required substance abuse program

Truck and bus companies regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration would provide the required information, as well as medical review officers, substance abuse professionals and drug and alcohol testing laboratories.

Safety checks reveal thousands of drivers under the influence

In 2013, federal and state law enforcement officials conducted more than 3 million random roadside inspections of commercial vehicles and their drivers. Over 1,200 of the examinations revealed violators of federal regulations governing controlled substances, and officers found 2,095 of the commercial vehicle operators guilty of drunk driving. These alarming numbers emphasize the need for resources to discourage truck drivers from using drugs or alcohol.

In Illinois, victims of a crash involving a tractor-trailer may benefit from the advice of a personal injury attorney who can navigate the legal system to achieve the maximum compensation under the law.

Buzzed drivers pose risks to others on the road

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According to the 2014 Illinois DUI Fact Book, a driver with a blood alcohol content of .08 is 11 times more likely to be killed in a car crash than one who is sober, but even buzzed drivers exhibit slower reaction time and impaired coordination after just one drink. In 2012, 35 percent of the total Illinois crash fatalities were alcohol-related. This is consistent with the national percentage, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

One drink affects mental and physical ability

Twelve ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80 proof liquor each contain 1.2 tablespoons of ethanol alcohol, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. This amount has effects that appear in about 10 minutes and last for hours. One drink affects the chemicals in the brain responsible for communicating messages from one area to another, and reactions may include impulse control problems, balance problems and compromised depth perception and focus.

In a recent study published in the journal Injury Prevention, researchers at the University of California, San Diego collected car crash data to determine how the level of alcohol in the blood correlated to fault. A greater number of alcoholic beverages consumed is linked directly to responsibility for motor vehicle accidents. This probability does not begin at the legal level of .08 percent. A driver with a .01 percent blood alcohol content is almost 50 percent more likely to be at fault than the sober driver.

Lowering legal limits may reduce buzzed driving

The lack of driver education regarding the effects of alcohol may be a contributor to the number of injury and fatality car accidents each year. Even though the legal limit is far above the actual point of impairment, many drivers use it as the indicator of whether or not they are capable of getting behind the wheel.

Approximately 30 million licensed drivers admit to driving drunk, and even some drivers who are designated to chauffer friends home after drinking believe it is acceptable to drive as long as they drink less alcohol than the others in their party.  Researchers at the University of Florida conducted a survey and Breathalyzer tests of self-proclaimed designated drivers leaving bars and discovered that 41 percent had had at least one drink.

In many countries, the legal limit is set at .05, and lawmakers in the U.S. encourage states to reduce their blood alcohol content limits, as well. Buzzed driving is not currently against the law, but if there is evidence that a person’s driving is impaired, a judge may still issue a drunk driving conviction. A victim of an alcohol-related crash may benefit from the legal advice of a personal injury attorney who is familiar with the laws on impaired driving in Illinois.

Illinois police chief: Tougher DUI penalties would keep roads safer for others

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Alcohol-related car accidents cause more than 10,000 fatalities each year. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, an impaired driver may get behind the wheel 80 times before getting arrested. Two-thirds of those who are arrested have never been convicted before, but one-third are repeat offenders.

Law enforcement officials are concerned about the number of people who are convicted of driving under the influence, and yet end up out on the roads again. For example, in Riverside, Illinois, a man was recently arrested for the fourth time. His driver’s license had been revoked for prior DUIs, but that did not prevent him from driving. Lawmakers are working to create penalties that will deter first time offenders and eliminate repeat offenses.

Any amount of alcohol affects brain function

The Illinois State Police’s Influenced Driving webpage states that one drink is equal to one ounce of 86 proof liquor, three ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer. These examples of one drink contain 1.2 tablespoons of ethanol alcohol, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Anything over .05 blood alcohol content is considered impaired, and .08 or more is presumed under the influence.

Although the body weight and metabolism of every person is different and will process the drink differently, even one drink is enough to affect the physical and mental abilities while driving. The chemicals that carry messages throughout the brain are blocked, reducing reaction time and the ability to control impulses and make good decisions. Eye focus and depth perception are also affected negatively.

Current laws do not keep drunk drivers off the road

The first time an individual is convicted of drunk driving, it is considered a misdemeanor, which carries a punishment of up to one year in jail, fines up to $2,500, court costs over $1,000 and  a temporarily suspended license. The first DUI also causes limited driving privileges. These limits include the installation of a breath alcohol ignition interlock device system in the vehicle. The driver must blow into the device before starting the car, and if the blood alcohol content is above a pre-set limit, the vehicle will not start.

Law enforcement officials in Illinois say that the Breathalyzer devices on cars are less effective than they should be. Offenders simply borrow, buy or rent a different vehicle. In Riverside, 64 DUI arrests in 2013 were offenders who had multiple convictions and whose licenses had been revoked. Victims of drunk drivers should call an Illinois personal injury attorney who is able to get full compensation for all damages incurred.

Brain injury increases the risk of suffering a stroke

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A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked or bursts, and cells begin to die. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke affects about 800,000 people in the U.S. each year. It is a serious neurological disorder, and one of the top five leading causes of death. Symptoms include the sudden onset of numbness, weakness, confusion, vision problems or headache, particularly on one side of the body.

In recent study published in the journal Neurology, researchers in the neurology department at the University of Michigan Medical School investigated the possibility of a link between strokes and traumatic brain injury, or TBI. They discovered that the risk of a stroke increases by ten times during the first three months following the injury.

Many neurological problems stem from head trauma

TBI is caused by a severe blow to the head or an object piercing the skull that affects cognitive function, and it may be the result of a fall, a car accident, violence or any other sudden head trauma. Cdc.gov states that there are approximately 1.7 million such injuries in the U.S. each year. Past research has shown that an individual who has suffered TBI may later develop epilepsy, psychiatric conditions or Alzheimer’s disease, but this study and others indicate that there is also a risk of a stroke, and when the skull bone is fractured during the injury, the risk of stroke increases.

A year after the injury, the risk of stroke is still 4.6 times higher than it is for people without head trauma, and after five years, the risk goes down to 2.3 times higher. Although researchers have not definitively identified the correlation between TBI and stroke, they speculate that it may involve damage to blood vessels interrupting the brain’s blood supply. Medical professionals recommend imaging examinations and intensive monitoring support in the first few months and years following a brain injury.

Awareness can reduce the effects of a stroke

Now that strokes have been identified as neurological risks after head injuries, researchers urge an increase in awareness about the signs and symptoms of stroke that may occur in individuals who have experienced TBIs. Recognizing the onset of a stroke and seeking medical attention immediately can significantly reduce brain damage and prevent permanent disability or death.

An individual who has experienced head trauma should be aware of the increased risk of stroke and talk to a doctor about methods to monitor neurological health. The medical expenses, pain and suffering of brain injuries and strokes affect both victims and family members, and a personal injury attorney who is knowledgeable about the laws and statutes in Illinois can provide advice and legal assistance to receive full compensation.

Cell phones are not the only cause of distraction for drivers

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Many individuals in Illinois are under the impression that using a hand-held device, such as a cell phone, is the only way a driver can become legally distracted. While texting and surfing the internet on a smart phone are two of the most dangerous activities in which drivers can engage, other distractive behaviors can cause deadly car accidents just as easily.

A Cody, Wyoming man recently swerved into oncoming traffic while driving on a local highway, striking and killing a Denver motorcyclist in a head-on collision. The Denver Channel reports that the motorist lost control of his truck after he dropped a water bottle and momentarily took his eyes off the road to look for it on the floor of his truck. The driver was cited for careless driving. While the accident did not take place in Illinois, the story is similar to those heard constantly throughout the state and the nation.

What is distracted driving?

According to Distraction.gov, distracted driving is any activity that takes a person’s attention off of their driving. All distracted driving, no matter what the distraction is, endangers the driver, passengers and any pedestrians or bystanders that may be present. Distracting activities include the following:

  • Eating and drinking
  • Grooming
  • Reading
  • Adjusting radios or navigation systems
  • Talking with passengers
  • Reaching for objects inside the car

Focusing on objects or events outside of the vehicle, such as another car accident, is a well-recognized cause of distracted driving. Even though most of these activities are perfectly legal, they can become a dangerous distraction and drivers should avoid them as rigidly as they avoid the use of hand-held devices.

Distraction causes accidents

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently partnered with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute to create and implement a study on driving distractions. Results indicated that 80 percent of accidents and 65 percent of near-crashes resulted from some kind of driver distraction that occurred within the three seconds prior to the crash. Reading, fixating on external objects, and applying makeup were some of the principal actions that led to accidents within the study.

Stay focused

 With so many activities causing distracted driving, motorists can keep themselves from driving while distracted by remembering to stay focused, pay attention to the road and the drivers around them, and to always expect the unexpected, as driving conditions can change in a moment. Drivers who choose not to follow these simple rules can cause themselves and others devastating injuries or death. Those who have been injured by driver negligence in Chicago should contact a personal injury attorney to assist with their claim to ensure that they have the best chance at receiving the compensation they need.

 

 

 

 

Chicago in top 50 list for pedestrian accidents

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The Chicago Tribune reports that a man was recently driving on Sheridan Road in the Edgewater Beach neighborhood when he allegedly hit multiple pedestrians, injuring five people and killing a 71-year old man. Law enforcement officers stated that the driver passed multiple cars that were stopped at a red light and then attempted to pass a CTA bus on the right when he struck the pedestrians. The old man was pronounced dead at the scene and all other victims were treated and released at local hospitals. Charges against the driver, who was also severely injured in the crash, are pending.

These accidents are a common occurrence in Chicago. Smart Growth America’s National Complete Streets Coalition recently issued their report on pedestrian safety in cities across the nation, Dangerous By Design, which ranks Chicago as the 44th most dangerous city for pedestrians. This makes Chicago one of the top metropolitan areas in the nation for pedestrian accidents and deaths.

Contributing factors

According to the report, 1,165 pedestrian deaths occurred from the years 2003-2012. Of these fatalities, 54.1 percent of injuries occurred on arterial roads, which are designed primarily with the motorist and not the pedestrian in mind. These roads are often wide and feature multiple lanes for each direction of traffic but little if any area in which pedestrians can safely maneuver away from negligent drivers. However, the roads are usually built in areas where foot traffic is common or necessary for many individuals.

High speed roads other than arterials seem to pose a significant danger for pedestrians as well. According to the study, 35 percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred on roads with speed limits at or above 40 miles per hour. That rate dropped significantly to six percent with roads that had posted speed limits under 30 miles per hour, and even lower to 1.9 percent on roads with limits under 20 miles per hour. In each case, the allowed vehicle speed on the roadway directly corresponds to the number of fatally injured pedestrians.

Deadly design

Roads that fail to account for pedestrian safety are a significant issue as well. According to the report, when communities expanded in the post-war period, they developed rapidly and were designed with many low density suburbs connected by high speed, extra wide arterials to facilitate quicker travel by car. These roads often omit the necessary facilities to prevent injury to pedestrians.

Until significant changes are made to the city, more injuries will likely occur. Pedestrians who have been injured by a negligent driver in Chicago should contact a personal injury attorney for a consultation regarding their case. An attorney can help get accident victims the compensation they need in order to heal from their ordeal and move on with their lives.

Illinois speeding bill could save lives

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ABC Eyewitness News reports that a driver was recently killed when his car struck a pole in the Archer Heights neighborhood of Chicago. Law enforcement authorities believe the 41-year-old man was speeding excessively when his car clipped another vehicle, causing him to lose control of his car and strike a nearby pole. The driver received treatment at Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. Fortunately, the other motorist was not hurt in the accident.

While the other motorist came away from the accident without any bodily injuries, those involved in accidents caused by speeding are often not so lucky. To prevent these kinds of deadly occurrences, Illinois legislators have presented a bill to allow the use of speeding cameras throughout the state.

About the Bill

Current laws, which passed in 2011 and took effect in August 2013, only allow speeding cameras in areas with a population over one million, essentially limiting the use of the cameras to Chicago alone. The new bill, presented by State Representative Jay Hoffman, would strike the section of current law that limits the use of speed cameras to cities in excess of one million people and make it available to any government within the city if they so choose.

The speed cameras are currently only allowed in areas deemed “safety zones” and aim to ensure that children are kept safe in and around schools and parks. A safety zone extends to one-eighth of a mile around a school or public park, and those who are found speeding within these zones receive a fine. Speeding motorists are first issued a warning and if they continue to speed through the safety zones, they receive a citation. Those traveling 6-10 miles per hour over the posted speed limit receive a ticket for $35, and anyone speeding 11 mph over the speed limit must pay a $100 citation. The proposed legislation would not change these provisions.

An effective deterrent

Proponents believe that these cameras improve pedestrian safety and help prevent traffic collisions.  Since the implementation of the 2011 law allowing speed cameras in Chicago, 51 safety zones have been equipped with the technology. In just the single year since the cameras were installed, the City of Chicago saw an average reduction of 43 percent in the number of speeding events in safety zones, and some areas saw results as high as 99 percent.  The City has issued a total of 1.25 million warnings to motorists and 230,000 tickets since the program began.

Drivers who have been involved in an accident that was caused by a speeding motorist may have significant injuries. They should meet and confer with a Chicago personal injury attorney to ensure that they have the best chance at receiving compensation for their injuries.

Understanding the differences between motorcycles and passenger cars can save lives

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Motorcycles have the same rights and privileges afforded to every other motor vehicle. The significantly higher rates of motorcycle accident fatalities compared to all other motor vehicle fatalities suggests that these rights and privileges are not being respected by other drivers on the roadways.

Although only three percent of all registered vehicles are motorcycles, nearly 15 percent of crash fatalities are motorcyclists. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration researchers report that motorcyclists have a significantly higher risk on the roads than occupants in passenger vehicles, and are almost 40 times more likely to die in a crash. In Illinois in 2012, motor vehicle accidents caused nearly 150 motorcyclist fatalities.

Motorcycles operate differently than a passenger vehicle

The smaller size of motorcycles makes them easily hidden by larger vehicles, and more likely to be lost in other vehicles’ blind spots. The smaller size also affects the ability of other drivers to judge the speed of the motorcycle and how close or far away it is. Many accidents between passenger vehicles and motorcycles are a result of a failure to yield because of misjudged distance. It is always best to assume that the motorcycle is closer than it appears and allow extra room between vehicles.

Motorcycles are smaller and more maneuverable than passenger vehicles, which gives them a different perspective on traffic. In order to improve visibility or avoid unsafe conditions, a motorcyclist may change lanes more frequently. Motorcyclists do not always need to brake in order to slow down, and their turn-signals are not necessarily self-cancelling, so watching for brake lights or turn signals is not always the best way to anticipate a motorcycle’s movement in traffic. Motorcycles need even more room during bad weather and in construction zones because these conditions may affect their ability to stop quickly.

Car drivers who understand the differences between passenger vehicles and motorcycles on the road can positively affect the safety of motorcyclists and reduce the number of fatalities each year. The slogan “Look twice – save a life” effectively instigates the primary behavior that car drivers can employ to promote motorcycle safety.

Raising awareness prevents accidents

In response to the dangers motorcyclists are exposed to on the roadways, many states have instituted Motorcycle Awareness Month. Efforts like these help educate drivers as to the differences a motorcycle has, understand the necessity of taking extra precautions, and present ways that driver awareness can save lives.

Motorcyclists who have experienced a brain injury or other physical trauma in an accident caused by the carelessness of a car driver have a right to full legal representation by an attorney who is able to explain all the options available under the law.

Study: Cognitive distraction and drivers

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As the use of cell phones and smart phones becomes commonplace, law enforcement marks a corresponding increase in injury and fatality accidents on the roadways. Many studies demonstrate the dangers of two main sources of distraction for a driver, which are taking the eyes off the road or the hands off the wheel. The third type of driver distraction, taking the mind off the task of driving, has proven difficult to study. Carefully conducted research by the American Automobile Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety now demonstrates the degrees of mental distraction various tasks cause when performed while driving.

Evaluating cognitive tasks 

The research study performed surveys, tracked eye movements, and measured brain activity, reaction times and following distances when a driver was not distracted, and then compared these results with the results discovered after performing specific tasks while driving. These potentially distractive behaviors include the following:

  • Listening to the radio or a recorded book
  • Speaking with a person in the vehicle
  • Speaking on a hand-held device
  • Speaking on a hands-free device
  • Using a speech-to-text program 

These cognitive distractions diminish awareness while driving, causing a number of potentially dangerous issues. The areas of the brain needed for safe driving are suppressed, and more reaction time is necessary when a driver is distracted. The driver no longer registers the full visual effect of the driving environment, resulting in a type of tunnel vision that leads to missed cues and a decrease in accuracy.

Ranking task distractions

The researchers rated the tasks by the level of distraction produced, and discovered that listening to the radio or a recorded book caused very little distraction. Having a conversation with a person in the vehicle caused more distraction than was previously thought, but having the same conversation on a hand-held or hands-free device raised the level of driver distraction considerably. Researchers believe this may be due to the inability of the person on the other end of the discussion to see traffic cues and respond. There was not a significant difference in either of these methods of cell phone use. The most distracting task a driver may perform is using a speech-to-text program, even though manufacturers promote these programs as safer alternatives.

The studies performed on visual, manual and cognitive distraction all demonstrate the dangers of distracted driving. Even though these conclusive results link them to the thousands of injuries and fatalities that occur each year on the roadways, many drivers persist in engaging in the behaviors. Victims of a car accident should contact an experienced attorney in order to get the full benefit of the protection offered by the legal system.