Chicago Car Accident Lawyers Blog

December 28, 2009

Illinois trucking accident lawyers monitor increased speed limit, pending legislation

A new law beginning Jan. 1 will allow Illinois semis to travel 65 mph on many state highways, leaving opponents of higher speeds concerned about the increased risk of Illinois trucking accidents.

Earlier this fall the Chicago trucking accident lawyers at Abels & Annes reported the state ranks sixth-highest in the nation for fatal semi accidents.

The faster trucks comes as the federal government is phasing in better braking standards for semis amid consideration of a reduction in rest requirements for truck drivers. Trucks are heavily regulated because of the danger posed to much smaller passenger vehicles in an accident.

The Illinois Department of Transportation reported that 14,362 Illinois semi accidents killed 115 people last year and injured about 3,000. Of the 115 killed, five were truck drivers and the rest were victims in passenger vehicles, pedestrians or bicyclists.

Last year, some 380,000 large trucks were involved in traffic accidents that killed 4,229 motorists. Another 90,000 were injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

ABC7 reported that the law will affect about 1,800 miles of road in the state. Lawmakers have passed the speed limit increase on three previous occasions but those efforts were vetoed by Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Abels & Annes blogged about the new law this summer on Chicago Car Accident Lawyers blog. The law will not impact highways in the immediate Chicago area. Supporters of the measure argue it is safer for trucks to be traveling with the flow of traffic at the same speed as everyone else; opponents contend faster-moving rigs could increase the risk of Illinois semi accidents.

The issue has made news as far away as Evansville, where NBC14 reported the Illinois Department of Transportation is in the process of replacing signs at a cost of about $75,000 to display the new speed limit, which will also apply to campers and those hauling trailers.

This summer, Ohio changed its law to 65, reported. Previously, large commercial vehicles had been restricted to 55mph in that state as well.

Nine states -- Arkansas, California, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, Oregon, Texas, and Washington -- still retain lower speed limits for large trucks, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Texas and Utah allow semis to travel as fast as 80 mph.

Meanwhile, the federal government is looking at a measure that would reduce by an hour the amount of rest truckers are required to have between shifts-- from the current 11 hours to 10 hours.

And in July, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued new braking requirements, which the federal government estimates will save more than 200 lives a year and reduce property damage by more than $169 million a year.

The new standard requires that a tractor-trailer traveling at 60 miles per hour come to a complete stop in 250 feet. The old standard required a complete stop within 355 feet.

The new regulation will be phased in over four years beginning with 2012 models.

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December 25, 2009

Illinois eighth-deadliest state for drunk driving accidents as authorities launch nationwide holiday crackdown

A nationwide Intensive Holiday Drunk & Impaired Driving Crackdown & Advertising Blitz has been announced by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The Chicago car accident lawyers at Abels & Annes noted on our Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer blog that Mothers Against Drunk Driving is also increasing enforcement and awareness efforts for the holidays.

In 2007, nearly 1,500 people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In Illinois, of the 1,043 people killed in traffic accidents in 2008, one in three (362) were legally drunk and one in four (252) had a blood alcohol level of almost twice the legal limit (.15) or higher, as Abels & Annes reported in an earlier blog.

That is a a 17 percent reduction from the 439 Illinois fatalities involving drunk drivers in 2007. The reduction puts Illinois in the middle of the pack -- tied for 20th when comparing the drunk-driving fatality rate in all 50 states.

Still, Illinois' 362 fatal drunk driving accidents was eighth highest in the nation after Texas (1,269), California (1,029), Florida (875), Pennsylvania (496), North Carolina (423), Georgia (416) and South Carolina (403).

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and R. Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, have launched "Over the Limit. Under Arrest" a national drunk and impaired driving crackdown involving thousands of law enforcement agencies during the holiday season.
75579_drunk_driving.jpg“Drunk driving is a major public safety threat that still claims thousands of lives every year,” Secretary LaHood said. “Many states continue to step up their efforts to get drunk drivers off our roads, but the numbers tell us we have to do more. Drinking and driving is dangerous and unacceptable, and I’m asking law enforcement to stay vigilant during this busy holiday season.”

Five states have shown great reductions in alcohol-impaired driving fatality rates from 2007 to 2008. Those include Vermont, Wisconsin, Maine, Nebraska and Minnesota. The states with the least progress are Idaho, Rhode Island, Wyoming, Kansas and New Hampshire, according to government statistics.

Driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher is illegal in all 50 states. But the focus will also be on drugged driving.

“Like alcohol, drugs impair perception, judgment, motor skills and memory. These effects can be dangerously magnified when drugs are consumed with alcohol, even in cases where a driver's blood alcohol level is below legal limits,” said Director Kerlikowske. “Driving while impaired, from alcohol, drugs, or both, puts us all at risk and must be prevented.”

The campaign also reminds motorists that government research has consistently shown that more people are killed in crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver on the weekends and at night. In September, Abels & Annes also reported Illinois officials are concerned about the prevalence of weekend nighttime accidents.

In 2008 alone, 58 percent of drivers and motorcycle riders were killed in crashes that took place over the weekend and at night were alcohol-impaired.

“My message to drivers is this: if you decide to drink, find a safe and sober ride home or your chances of arrest are extremely high,” said Secretary LaHood. “Law enforcement officers will be out in full force during the upcoming holiday, especially at night and on the weekends, looking for the drunk drivers that put the rest of us at risk.”

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December 23, 2009

Chicago car accidents increase at some intersections with red-light cameras

A report by the Chicago Tribune shows mixed results regarding the effectiveness of red-light cameras in reducing suburban Chicago car accidents.

The Chicago car accident attorneys and Chicago injury lawyers at Abels & Annes have been following the issue closely, both here and on our sister site, Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer blog.

In October, we reported that the city's network of 330 planned cameras was in jeopardy because of the tough economy and the expense of installing the cameras.

The Tribune found that car accidents increased at half of the 14 suburban Chicago intersections outfitted with traffic cameras by the end of 2007, following the passage of the 2006 law that permitted the cameras to be used as a traffic-enforcement tool.

The number of car accidents fell at five of the intersections and remained largely unchanged at the remaining two intersections outfitted with the cameras.

In Bellwood, at Mannheim and St. Charles roads, collisions rose by almost 50 percent, from 17 the year before cameras appeared to 24 the year after.

In Melrose Park, crashes increased from 56 to 73 at 1st and North avenues, near the now-closed Kiddieland Amusement Park.

And in Oak Lawn, at the busy junction of Cicero and 95th Street, broadside collisions rose from one to five and overall crashes increased from 34 in 2006 to 44 in 2008, according to state data.

The Tribune reported last month that records from the Illinois Department of Transportation showed collisions either increasing or holding steady at nearly 60 percent of the 47 city intersections equipped with red-light cameras in 2006 or 2007.

However, statistics collected by the city typically show a decrease in accidents at camera-monitored intersections. The Tribune reported that city and state officials could not explain the discrepancy in their respective reporting.

The cameras, which generate $100 tickets mailed to red-light violators, have been the focus of growing controversy. Supporters content they are installed with safety in mind. Critics contend they are a cash cow that can lead to more accidents and raise privacy issues.

The paper said suburban statistics are harder to evaluate than statistics for city cameras, which have been in place longer. However, it noted accidents continued to rise at some of those early camera-monitored city intersections.

By the end of 2007, just seven suburbs had cameras: Bellwood, Berwyn, Elmwood Park, Melrose Park and Rosemont in west and northwest Cook County and Oak Lawn and Hometown in the southwest. Dozens of area suburbs have since installed cameras, most either this year or last.

Media reports have questioned the placement of those cameras; many of those earliest suburban intersections were not plagued by many accidents before cameras went in, state records show.

Critics have argued an increase in rear-end collisions at some intersections is the result of drivers suddenly slamming on brakes at camera-monitored intersections to avoid tickets.

Continue reading "Chicago car accidents increase at some intersections with red-light cameras" »

December 21, 2009

Off-duty police officer involved in fatal weekend Chicago car accident

An off-duty suburban police officer was being questioned Monday morning in the aftermath of a three-car fatal Chicago car accident on the inbound Stevenson Expressway that closed the roadway for more than five yours overnight, according to the Chicago Breaking News Center.

The Tribune reported that alcohol may have played a role in the crash and that the injured officer was given a blood-alcohol test and admitted to Mt. Sinai Hospital in good condition. State police said representatives of the state's attorney's office were there to consider charges.

A 29-year-old South Wentworth Avenue man was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10:16 p.m.

The crash occurred at about 9:30 p.m. Sunday west of Cicero Avenue, when a southbound vehicle lost control on the Expressway, swerved across the median into northbound traffic, where it rolled over and struck two cars, according to Illinois State Police.

CBS2 reported the officer is from southwest suburban Lockport and may have suffered lacerations on his face and head, and possibly a broken pelvis.

Inbound I-55 was closed for five hours while officials made measurements and took photographs as part of their investigation.

December 17, 2009

Authorities seeks hit-and-run driver in fatal Chicago bicycle accident

A 32-year-old cyclist was killed in a Chicago bicycle accident on the Northwest Side after being struck by a van in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood, The Chicago Tribune reported on Tuesday.

After the accident, the driver left the van and fled, according to police.

The bicyclist was riding in the 3800 block of West Diversey Avenue shortly after noon when the van veered into his path, police reported. He was pronounced dead at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.

A relative told ABC7 that the bicyclist had been on the way to a job interview. Police were searching for the van's owner as part of the continuing investigation.

Accident data for Cook County and the surrounding area continues to show that pedestrian accidents and bicycle accidents are a leading cause of injury and death in Chicago traffic fatalities.

Through the end of September, more than 1 in every 3 of Chicago's 110 fatalities involved a bicyclist or a pedestrian.

Hit-and-run drivers account for a large portion of traffic fatalities -- more than four people a day die in an accident where the at-fault driver does not stop, according to a report by AAA.

Each day, another 72 are injured by hit-and-run drivers.

In October, the Chicago Car Accident Lawyers blog reported on a rash of hit-and-run accidents being investigated by police.

This fall, police launched a program aimed at reducing the number of Chicago pedestrian accidents occurring at night by increasing enforcement and stationing undercover police officers in crosswalks and other areas at high-risk for such accidents.

December 16, 2009

December deadliest month for Illinois car accidents

December is the deadliest month for Illinois car accidents, according to data released by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The Chicago car accident lawyers and the personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at Abels & Annes have published several reports examining contributing factors for winter Chicago car accidents, including:

Wet and Snowy Roads: Of the 950 fatal Illinois traffic accidents in 2008, one in three occurred on wet, icy or snowy roads, IDOT reported.

Dark Winter Commute: More than half of all fatal Illinois car accidents occur after dark.

Chicago Drunk Driving Accidents: In 2007, nearly 1,500 people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In Illinois, 18 people were killed and more than 1,400 hundred injured in drunk driving accidents during the Christmas and New Year's Holiday.

Urban Driving: IDOT reports almost half of all fatal Illinois traffic accidents in 2008 occurred in the 5-county area around Chicago.

Teen Driving: Statistics show teens are at especially high risk for traffic accidents during the holidays.

IDOT monthly traffic fatalities:
January: 83
February: 70
March: 73
April: 87
May: 89
June: 90
July: 100
August: 82
September: 79
October: 92
November: 92
December: 106

IDOT's Operation Save 100 campaign aims to reduce Illinois traffic fatalities by at least 100 deaths before year's end. Prior to the Thanksgiving Holiday, 781 people had died on Illinois roads so far this year, compared to 883 during the same period last year.

Continue reading "December deadliest month for Illinois car accidents" »

December 14, 2009

Decades after Chicago debuted car phones to the world, area continues to strengthen ban to reduce Chicago car accidents

Complete with a vintage photo of the 1983 debut of a car phone in a Chrysler parked before the media at Solider Field, The New York Times has published an exhaustive look at the dangers of driver distraction caused by cell phones.

In that call, hundreds of members of the media gathered at Soldier Field to watch an executive from Ameritech, the regional phone company that sponsored the event, use a car phone in a Chrysler convertible to phone a great-grandson of Alexander Graham Bell, who was living in Germany.

Since then, the City of Chicago and the state of Illinois have become leaders in banning text messaging and cell phone use by drivers. Drivers have been forbidden from using hand-held cell phones in the City of Chicago since 2005 and a new law that takes effect Jan. 1 will make it illegal in Illinois to text message while driving and forbids the use of cell phones in school or construction zones, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.

However, as the Chicago car accident attorneys at Abels and Annes pointed out on our Chicago Car Accident Lawyers blog in August, Illinois was one of fewer than 10 states to pass such a law last year out of the more than 170 bills introduced nationwide, according to a separate report in The New York Times.

Despite the mounting evidence of the dangers of cell phone use while driving, and more recently of text messaging behind the wheel, The Times reports the mobile phone industry built a $150 billion business in the United States largely by winning over drivers.

In fact, early ad campaigns called them car phones and even featured executives bragging about dictating to their secretary while driving at 55 mph.

By 2007, the federal government estimated that 11 percent of drivers were talking on their phones at any given time. Seven years ago, researchers at Harvard estimated drivers using cell phones were causing more than 2,500 fatal crashes a year and more than 500,000 injury accidents.

In part because of the inherent dangers of text messaging, the Wireless Association, the industry trade group, supports bans on text messaging and no longer opposes banning the use of cell phones while driving, which have been adopted in a number of cities, including Chicago.

“This was never something we anticipated,” said Steve Largent, spokesman for the group, adding that distracted driving is a growing threat now that more than 90 percent of Americans have cellphones. “The reality of distracted driving has become more apparent to all of us.”

Safety advocates argue cell phone makers and service providers have paid little more than lip service to the dangers while producing increasingly complicated devices many motorists are using behind the wheel.

In late 1985, wireless companies had 340,000 customers. Only 10 years later, as the price of phones fell sharply, there were almost 34 million. Revenue for wireless service providers was soaring — to $16 billion in 1995 from $354 million in 1985. The industry had revenue of $148 billion in 2008, according to The Times report.

There were red flags as early as 1984, when AAA urged drivers to park before using their phones. Studies by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety in 1992 and the Canadian Ministry of Health in 1997 began to solidify the risk.

“This relative risk is similar to the hazard associated with driving with a blood alcohol level at the legal limit,” researchers wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine. They said hands-free devices were no safer than hand-held phones because of the distraction that comes from focusing on a conversation, not the road.

Recently, the University of Utah showed drivers using cell phones face a four times greater risk of a crash.

“It’s been a very consistent picture,” said Chris Monk, a researcher for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which conducted an exhaustive study in 2005. “Frankly, I get a little annoyed that we continue to see studies that investigate the effects of cellphone use on driving, because they all show the same thing, whether you’re talking hands-free or not.”

Continue reading "Decades after Chicago debuted car phones to the world, area continues to strengthen ban to reduce Chicago car accidents" »

December 11, 2009

Slippery roads contribute to weekend Chicago car accidents

Snow plows and salt trucks hit portions of the Chicago metro area to start last weekend as the Breaking News Center reported slippery driving conditions contributed to several Chicago car accidents on Friday morning.

Also over the weekend, a woman died after driving her car into about 12 feet of water at the DuSable Harbor in Lake Michigan early Sunday morning, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The Chicago car accident happened shortly before 8 a.m. Sunday near Columbia Yacht Club on Lake Shore Drive.The car drove through a metal pole, down an embankment through a garden area and into the water.

Two divers pulled the driver from the water.

Elsewhere, a two-car accident lead to a fatality Sunday morning in Chicago's Gage Park neighborhood, the Chicago Tribune reported. The accident happened about 2:15 a.m. near the intersection of 58th Street and California Avenue.

On Thursday afternoon, a semi truck hauling a trailer of mud collided with a car near Veron Hills in a Chicago trucking accident that shut down traffic for more than two hours, the News Center reported.

The truck was westbound on highway 60 about 2:30 p.m. when it collided with a 2001 Chevy Cavalier turning northbound on to St. Mary's Road. The truck swerved for about 30 feet and took out a light pole before coming to rest in some trees. The truck's load did not spill. Both drivers were transported to the hospital; no charges have been filed pending results of the investigation.

December 9, 2009

Fatal Chicago drunk driving accident leads to criminal charges

A driver faces felony drunk driving charges stemming from a Sunday Chicago drunk driving accident that claimed the life of a 27-year-old Chicago man.

The Examiner reported that the 21-year-old driver was going the wrong way on a one-way street shortly before 3 a.m. Saturday when he struck a car at the intersection of 58th and California. The driver and his 20-year-old passenger were not injured in the crash.

ABC7 reported the at-fault driver's 1998 Chevy Lumina was traveling on 58th Street when he struck the driver's side of the victim's 1996 Buick Regal. The 27-year-old driver of the Buick was transported to Mt. Sinai Hospital by a Chicago Fire Department ambulance and pronounced dead at 3:27 a.m.

The driver is charged with Aggravated DUI in an accident resulting in death, DUI any amount of drug, Failure to reduce speed, Driving the wrong way on a one way street, Failure to yield the right of way, No insurance and Reckless driving, according to The Examiner.

Earlier this month on Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer blog, we reported that the Illinois Department of Transportation and Illinois State Police have launched Operation Save 100, aimed at reducing Illinois traffic fatalities by at least 100 before the end of the year.

A total of 781 people had died this year on Illinois roads when the campaign was announced just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, compared to 883 during the same period last year.

However, the year-end holiday period is a particularly dangerous time on the roads, in part because of Illinois drunk driving accidents and winter weather.

Wet roads and dark commutes also contribute to fatal Chicago car accidents.

Chicago car accidents accounted for 40 percent of all traffic fatalities in Illinois last year.

December 7, 2009

Wet roads increase risk of Chicago car accidents


Driving conditions are an often overlooked factor in serious and fatal Chicago car accidents.

As the winter driving season is ushered in amid heavy holiday travel, the Chicago injury lawyers and wrongful death attorneys at Abels & Annes urge motorists to keep safety in mind while combating the ice, standing water, fog, sleet and rain on Chicago-area roads.

Of the 950 fatal Illinois traffic accidents in 2008, one in three occurred on wet, icy or snowy roads, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. A total of 140 fatal accidents happened on wet roads, while 82 fatal crashes occurred on icy or snowy roadways, according to the recently published "2008 Illinois Crash Facts & Statistics."

Another 20,000 motorists were injured on wet roads in Illinois last year.

Friday was the most dangerous day on the road in Illinois -- logging 58,474 crashes. Noon to 8 p.m., the most dangerous time of day, logging about 180,000 of the 340,000 urban crashes logged by time of day.

As Abels & Annes previously reported on our Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer blog, 40 percent of the state's fatal accident occur in the 5-county region encompassing Chicago.

Statewide, 115 crashes a day occurred in Illinois during 2008, claiming three lives per day and injuring 11 people an hour.

IDOT's "Ice and Snow, Take it Slow" campaign urges motorists to prepare for winter driving. Safety advice can be found on the state's winter driving tips page.

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