Articles Posted in Accident Research

Red light and other traffic violations are some of the most dangerous types of driving maneuvers. This negligent conduct leads to numerous Illinois car accidents every year. Motorists who violate traffic signals and red lights may face significant civil and criminal charges, depending on the circumstances that led to their negligent conduct. While these accidents can cause harm on any roadway, it is particularly dangerous in urban and crowded areas such as Chicago.

For instance, local news reports recently described a harrowing Chicago accident involving a red light violation. According to reports, a 26-year-old man driving a Chrysler ran a red light, crossed into an intersection, and slammed into a 23-year-old driver who had a passenger in his vehicle. The impact caused the Chrysler to spin and slam into a 52-year-old pedestrian. Residents tried to help the woman; however, the impact severed a gas line, preventing residents from saving her. The woman’s husband ran out of his home to try and save her; however, she died from her injuries. The 23-year-old man got himself and the baby out of his vehicle through the sunroof, and he was taken to a local hospital for treatment. The Chrysler driver fled the scene of the accident, but police later apprehended him.

Establishing civil negligence is a critical part of any case involving traffic violations. Even in cases where a driver receives a citation or ticket, the plaintiff must still meet all of the elements of a negligence claim. Certain types of evidence can bolster a victim’s claims and aid in establishing the extent of losses and damages. Some pieces of evidence in a Chicago accident case may include:

The results of a new study indicate that drivers who make less money are paying substantially more for the same insurance as drivers who earn more, despite having identical driving records.

The study is based on a collection of data covering hypothetical drivers in 15 cities. Five major insurers were included in the study to give the data a more representative result, including Allstate, Farmers, Geico, Progressive, and State Farm. Researchers used a hypothetical married man and a woman who both were employed in white collar professions, both maintained auto insurance in the prior six months, and owned their cars. In comparison, researchers also sought quotes for a single man and single female who worked blue collar jobs, had not previously owned a car for six months or had automobile insurance, and rented their homes.

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In today’s market, there is a common belief that all car insurance companies are the same and provide the same coverage. The only difference, according to many in the public, is the amount you pay for that coverage. It may surprise you to learn that there is a wide range of types of auto coverage, styles of companies selling those coverages, and the overall quality of the insurance you will receive – price is but one factor to consider.

So what does car insurance in Illinois entail, and what should you look for when selecting a new or updated policy?

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According to a report that was recently released by the Governors Highway Safety Association, the number of teenage drivers killed during the first half of 2012 increased sharply. This was in contravention of the general downward trend over the past decade.During the first six months of 2012, statistics regarding deaths in traffic accidents of 16 and 17 year old drivers were as follows:

  • total number of deaths combined increased by 19%
  • 107 sixteen year olds died between January and June of 2012, compared to 86 drivers during the same period in 2011
  • 133 seventeen year olds died in the first half of 2012 compared with 116 in the first half of 2011

This report was based upon preliminary data, which is sometimes subject to change, due to reporting errors or omissions, or for other reasons. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to release more definitive data later this year, which may provide further clarification regarding the statistics.

Of all of the states that reported, 25 reported increased rates, whereas 17 reported decreases, and eight states and the District of Columbia reported no change in the number of deaths for sixteen and seventeen year olds.

The overall trend, aside from this anomoly, was a downward trend in the deaths of these new drivers. For example, in 2000, 435 sixteen year old drivers were killed, compared with 173 in 2011.
Results were similar with seventeen year old drivers,with the 564 killed in 2000, and 250 in 2011. This downward trend has been in accordance with a similar decline in nationwide traffic fatalities overall.

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Using a voice-activated system to write text messages may not be as preferable to regular texting as lawmakers may have imagined.A new study from the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University concluded that sending text messages by way of a voice assisted system is just as dangerous as regular texting. This is true even if you are wearing a headset to assist you.

The researchers asked the 43 participants to first drive along a test track without any electronic devices present, then repeat the drive while texting, and then finally to send text messages while using a speech-to-text device while driving.

While texting, with either method, a driver’s eye contact with the road decreased and response time was significantly delayed. Additionally, according to the study’s abstract, “Results indicate that driver reaction times were nearly two times slower than the baseline condition, no matter which texting method was used.”

Researchers also noted that it took longer to send the voice assisted texts, due to the need to correct errors in the message. The study used three different voice texting programs, with the same results.

According to data from AAA, a national drivers’ organization:

  • 35% of drivers admit to reading a text or email while driving
  • 26% admit to typing a text or email while driving

The results of the study are eye opening, because most texting and cell phone use bans address only manual use of these devices. In fact, they sometimes explicitly state that these uses are acceptible so long as the driver’s voice, rather than eyes and hands, are controlling the communication or other device.

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As early as the end of this year, people will be able to start purchasing a new product called Google Glass, a.k.a. Google glasses. The product is eye-wear that acts as a head mounted computer. With various voice commands you can surf the web, send a message, check the weather, take photos and video, and get directions.

While you cannot buy this product yet, there has already been a law proposed to ban it’s use while driving. A legislator in West Virginia, Gary Howell has proposed HB 3037, which adds language to the state’s texting law to make illegal the act of “using a wearable computer with head mounted display” while driving.
Google Glass YouTube Video

The Republican legislator is quoted as saying that he likes the idea of the Google glasses and believes they are a product of the future, however he believes that the use of the product is a form of distracted driving. He also thinks that younger and more inexperienced drivers are more likely to use the product and that the glasses could lead to motor vehicle accidents. He argues that we all know there has been many fatal accidents caused by texting and driving, and that he and his fellow lawmakers fought very hard to ban texting while driving in West Virginia.

I have not been able to find any articles on his proposed law where he or any other legislator talk about research or testing to back up his theory of increased accidents. Google on the other hand is stating they believe their product could reduce accidents. Google Glass uses hands-free technology and is voice activated. In theory, as a driver uses the product they would not have to take their eyes off the road.

The Google glasses have voice-activated turn by turn navigation. So instead of having to push buttons on your dashboard and having to look down to your right for navigation, you can just communicate to the head-mounted display your final destination, and you will be instructed where to go without taking your eyes off the roadway.

When I drive, I find that using my iPhone is significantly easier than onboard navigation. It is easier to use, and I can hold the navigation screen up higher, or mount it on my dashboard, so when I look at it the road is still in front of me. Google Glass seems to take that step further. I would never have to take my eyes off the road in theory.

Outlawing the use of Google Glass while driving concerns me without more research. Texting while driving is illegal in many states, however research shows many teenagers ignore the new laws and the statutes are difficult to enforce. With the Google product, teens could send messages verbally without ever taking their eyes off the roadway. In reality, the Google glasses could save lives with new safety technology, however the proposed law in West Virginia could prevent those lives from being saved.

I can only hope there will be research on this issue before the product comes on the market, and as a car crash lawyer I am very interested in seeing the results.
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A Canadian study recently published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine reportedly found that individuals who are prescribed high doses of opioid painkillers such as codeine and oxycodone are more likely to be hurt behind the wheel of a vehicle than people who are taking lower doses of the drugs. According to researchers from Toronto’s Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, even low doses of prescription painkillers can have a dramatic impact on a driver’s risk of being harmed in a traffic wreck. Lead researcher Tara Gomes said previous studies found that individuals who are taking opioid drugs tend to have difficulty remaining alert while driving. Gomes said her research was designed to focus on the wider public health issues related to traffic safety for any individual with opioid painkillers in their system.

As part of the study, researchers reportedly examined data regarding 5,300 Canadians who were taking an opioid painkiller and treated in an Ontario emergency room following a traffic accident. The study authors then determined the dose of painkiller each crash victim was taking using Ontario’s prescription drug database. Researchers purportedly found that there was no difference in the overall number of traffic injuries reported across the spectrum of painkiller dosage. When researchers examined injured drivers, however, they noted that motorists who were taking high doses of opioid painkillers were 42 percent more likely to be hurt in a collision than drivers who were on low doses. In addition, motorists who were prescribed moderate doses of the drugs were allegedly 29 percent more likely to be hurt.

Gomes stated that the time frame immediately following an increase in dosage appears to be more dangerous for drivers than the period after a motorist receives an initial prescription. She said this may be because drivers who are already taking painkillers are less likely to take the time to become accustomed to a new dosage than those new to the drugs. Although Gomes reportedly believes the effect that high doses of opioid drugs can have on traffic safety should be weighed by physicians, she said the study design made it impossible for researchers to determine whether motorists were using the painkillers according to doctor or pharmacist instructions.

An independent Pain Expert at Toronto Western Hospital, Dr. Angela Mailis-Gagnon, cautioned that the study design limited the usefulness of the research. Because the study authors used an administrative database to determine each dosage of painkiller prescribed to an injured patient, it is impossible to know whether accident victims were taking fast or slow-release opioids or if they were on any additional medications that could affect their coordination and attention. Mailis-Gagnon said although opioids clearly have an effect on driving abilities, patients who truly need the painkillers should continue taking them despite the results of the study.

Unfortunately, getting behind the wheel with certain prescription medications in your system can pose a safety hazard to everyone on the roadway. Although this particular research study focused on the injury risks apparent to drugged drivers, anyone who was involved in a crash that was caused by a motorist who was under the influence of prescription drugs may suffer catastrophic injuries or untimely death. If you were hurt in an accident with an impaired driver, you may be entitled to receive financial compensation for your medical costs, lost wages and benefits, pain and suffering, any resulting disability, and other damages. If a close family member was killed in a traffic wreck with a drugged driver, you may also be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. A skilled Chicago car accident lawyer can help.
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The federal government announced a final rule to outlaw drivers of trucks and buses from using hand-held cell phones at the wheel, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). This was the most current attempt to curb distracted driving and to reduce the risks of car accidents in Chicago and elsewhere. Commercial drivers are already prohibited from texting at the wheel.”I hope that this rule will save lives by helping commercial drivers stay laser-focused on safety at all times while behind the wheel,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

As we recently reported on our Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, officials are at it again. Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) made a recommendation for all 50 states to outlaw the use of all electronic devices by all drivers. Support for this type of law is split. Some support the measure in saying that our roadways are far too dangerous with the number of distracted drivers and a law needs to be enacted to help regulate the dangerous behavior. Others say that this type of blanket ban is overpowering and is restricting the right of motorists as residents of the United States.

Under the law for the truckers and bus drivers, if they’re busted driving while using a hand-held cell phone they can face fines of nearly $3,000. A driver’s commercial driver’s license (CDL) could be suspended after two traffic violations. In addition to penalizing these drivers, the companies that employ these truckers can face an $11,000 fine. This final rule affects roughly four million drivers working in the industry.

As we recently reported, the NTSB is urging all lawmakers to prohibit the use of all devices for drivers, except devices that aid road safety and for emergency use. The NTSB doesn’t have the authority to enact any laws, but its recent recommendations have been proven to pull significant weight with federal authorities.

In Illinois, school bus drivers and those who are under the age of 18 are banned from using a hand-held cell phone at the wheel. Drivers within the City of Chicago are prohibited from using a cell phone while driving. All drivers in the state are banned from texting while driving. All of the laws could soon be wiped out and a full-out ban could be enacted if the NTSB’s recommendation is adopted by federal and state lawmakers.

As we head into the holiday season, traffic is expected to increase significantly as vacationers from around the country head out to their favorite holiday vacation destinations. The National Safety Council is predicting that the New Year’s and the Christmas holiday will see nearly 600 roadway fatalities. Many of these fatalities can be avoided if drivers exercise safe and responsible driving habits. Please be safe on our roadways through the rest of the holiday season!
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The costs of fatal car accidents in Chicago have increased tremendously in recent years. According to USA TODAY, the average cost of a fatal car accident now runs about $6 million. A newly release report concludes that the cost of these accidents have surpassed the cost of traffic congestion. Traffic congestion costs include motorists’ time and the waste of gas while idling. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently conducted the study in about 100 urban areas, including Chicago. In these areas, the cost of accidents are now at least three times higher than the cost of congestion, nearly $300 billion compared to about $100 billion.AAA got its accident information from data collected by the Federal Highway Administration. These figures include costs pertaining to medical bills, lost earnings, property damage, legal costs, administrative costs, lost time at work, vocational rehabilitation, travel delays, emergency services, loss of household activities, pain, suffering and lost quality of life.

Our Chicago car accident attorneys understand that the costs for these accidents sat at around $3.25 million in 2005. During this time, injury accidents cost only about $68,000. The cost has nearly doubled since then. For many families, even those who don’t realize it, an accident can be among the biggest threats to their financial well-being. Medical complications can last years or take years to present themselves. If you’ve been in an accident, do you and your family a favor and consult an attorney to review your case.

This new study was conducted to help push the issue of transportation policies within Congress, which is currently considering a long-term highway funding bill, according to Chris Plaushin, AAA’s director of federal relations.

“We wanted to raise the profile and raise the awareness,” says Plaushin. “Right now, it’s jobs, it’s construction, it’s economic growth that are being talked about. This is part of our effort to bang the drum about safety.”

He says that it would be nearly impossible to attack congestion without affecting accidents and vice versa. Usually, highly congested areas have more reports of traffic accidents. Recent studies have concluded that roughly 40 percent of congestion is the result of accidents and weather and not from road conditions.

These traffic accidents continue to be the number one cause of death for people age 5- to 34-years-old in the United States.

The study also makes recommendations on how to reduce the costs associated with these accidents. These suggestions include investing more in roadway safety measures, including rumble strips, roundabouts in place of rumble strips, cable barriers, etc. Officials also recommend putting more laws into effect to help curb distracted driving, drunk driving and aggressive driving. All of these behaviors can be regulated with stricter enforcement.

“We know what’s effective,” said AAA spokesman Troy Green. “Tough laws. Stricter enforcement. Strict penalties. And targeted messaging and public education campaigns are effective, and we need more of those.”
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“You want a mix of country driving and urban driving, with different kinds of roads, with different kinds of weather,” said Diana Horton of the Tri-County Driving School based in Kane County.

She’s talking about young drivers and their experience through the Graduated Drivers Licensing (GDL) program in Illinois. This program is used to help educate teens to drive though a number of stages. The program aims to reduce the risks of teen car accidents in Chicago and elsewhere.Our Chicago teen car accident attorneys understand that teens who participate in a GDL program typically experience a 26 percent decrease in the number of teen driving accidents. Unfortunately, CNN reports that older teen drivers are not seeing the same decrease — another reason why parents should remain involved in their teen’s driving through high school and even college.

The GDL program in Illinois, according to Cyber Drive Illinois:

15-year-old drivers, Permit Phase:
-Must be enrolled in a driver education course that has been approved by the DOT.
-May not drive from Sunday through Thursday between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
-May not drive on Friday and Saturday from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
-Must pass a written and a vision exam.
-Must hold this permit for at least nine months.
-Must complete at least 50 hours of practice driving time with a licensed supervising adult.
-Can only have one front seat passenger and the number of seat belts in the back seat.
-All vehicle occupants under 19 must wear a seat belt.
-Drivers may not use a cell phone.

16- and 17-years-old, Initial Licensing Phase:
-A parent must certify that the driver has completed 50 hours of supervised driving.
-A parent must be present to obtain this license from the DMV.
-Must have completed the driver education course.
-May not drive from Sunday through Thursday between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
-May not drive on Friday and Saturday from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
-Cannot have a traffic conviction with six months before applying for next license.
-All vehicle occupants under 19 must wear a seat belt.
-Can only have one passenger under the age of 20 at a time.
-Cannot use a cell phone while driving.

18- through 20-years-old, Full Licensing Phase:

-No previous restrictions pertain to this driving phase.
-Cell phone use by drivers under the age of 19 is prohibited.

Researchers are finding that it is when drivers complete the restricted phases of this system that they face an increased risk for a serious car accident. Many believe it’s because they’re finally handed total freedom behind the wheel and are oftentimes overwhelmed.

“The expectation was that older [teen] drivers wouldn’t be affected much one way or the other, so this is a new thing to think about,” says Anne McCartt, Ph.D., vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

According to The Beacon-News, there were nearly 150 teenagers killed in Illinois as a result of a traffic accident in 2007. Secretary of State Jesse White says that the number of teens that died in 2009 was half that, at less than 75. He continues to stick by his GDL program, saying that the recent increase in the restrictions within the GDL program has helped to drop this number.

Safe driving advocates continue to worry about our young drivers after they graduate from this program. Regardless, parents and guardians need to stay involved in their young driver’s time behind the wheel. Keep safe driving as a frequent topic of conversation within your household.
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