Articles Posted in Accident Research

“Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for all Americans ages 5 to 34. And the annual highway death toll costs our nation over $230 billion a year,” said Jacqueline Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “Too many people are needlessly dying because states have been slow to enact laws to protect teen drivers, keep drunk drivers off our roads and ban the dangerous and deadly practice of texting while driving.”Democratic leaders of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation recently introduced legislation to improve the safety of motor vehicles, to advance traffic safety laws in states and to enhance consumer information, according to Automotive Industry Today. These measures are aimed at reducing the number of fatal car accidents in Chicago and elsewhere. The proposed law is sponsored by Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR), Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-WV). It would fund safety programs and activities of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the federal agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation responsible for auto and traffic safety.

Our Illinois car accident attorneys note the proposed law (the Motor Vehicle and Highway Safety Improvement Act of 2011 (MVHSIA), or Mariah’s Law) is named after an Arkansas teen killed in a traffic accident involving a texting driver. It aims to address teen driver licensing, improve motor vehicle safety standards, halt distracted and impaired driving, tighten up child passenger safety regulations and enact safety defect and consumer information reforms.

“As a parent and a lawmaker,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), “I want to take every reasonable safety precaution to ensure that our teen drivers are safe and well-prepared for the serious responsibility that comes with getting a license. This legislation will give young drivers better education and more experience before they get out on the roads, keeping us all safer and saving lives.”

This proposals include the Safe Teen And Novice Driver Uniform Protection (STANDUP) Act. This is the legislation, introduced by Senator Gillibrand and co-sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), that includes a $22 million grant program that will be used to encourage states to adopt a number of teen driving laws. The laws will phase in driving privileges as a teen gains more experience at the wheel. For a state to qualify for these grants, it would have to create and enforce laws that would restrict the number of teen passengers that a young driver drive ride with, initiate a ban on cell phone use and limit nighttime driving.

“As the mother of a teenager, I know firsthand how important it is to keep our roads safe,” said Senator Klobuchar. “These measures will provide states with effective guidelines to help ensure drivers’ safety and prevent risky behavior – especially among teen drivers. I will continue to fight to strengthen protection for drivers and make our roads safer for everyone.”

This bill would direct the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to issue a standard that would ensure the reliability and performance of electronic systems that operate and control vital vehicle safety systems. It would also require the Administration to create some way for consumers to have better access to government information about recalls, defects and other safety-related data. This proposal comes after many lost faith in the current recall system — many consumers were never notified about malfunctions regarding their vehicle.

“This bill is about saving lives,” said Senator Mark Pryor, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance. “We’ve strengthened programs designed to stop dangerous driving behavior, and we’ve stepped up vehicle safety so that families are protected by strong safety standards and devices when an accident does occur.”
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Back in 1961, death records from motor vehicle accidents reached a record 11-year low of roughly 49 deaths per billion miles traveled on our public roads and peaked in 1966 with 55 deaths per billion miles of travel in 1966.

We’ve been fortunate enough to see a continuous decrease in these rates and have come to see a death rate as low as roughly 11 deaths per billion miles traveled. We saw this recent low record of deaths resulting from car accidents in Chicago and elsewhere in 2009, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).Many credit this decrease to the creation by Congress of the National Highway Safety Bureau, the forerunner of the current National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) back in 1966. In ’67 and ’68, the first edition of federal motor vehicle safety standards was created.

Our Chicago car accident attorneys understand that these low records are something to celebrate, but we also recognize the need for more motorist participation in safe driving habits if we’re going to continue making progress moving forward. Low fatality rates can also result in less attention being paid to safety concerns, or to complacency. As we’ve reported frequently, much of the reduction in the past few years can be attributed to the economic downturn — the risk of serious and fatal accidents is expected to rise again with economic recovery.

“This is exciting news, but there are still far too many people dying in traffic accidents,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Drivers need to keep their hands on the steering wheel and their focus on the road in order to stay safe.”

There are a number of other contributors to this decreasing rate besides the federal motor vehicle safety standards. Some would like to show recognition to seat belt laws that some states have enacted, safety advocate groups against drunk driving, the economic downturn, laws banning cell phone use, graduated licensing laws and road improvements.

A large number of people would like to credit the new wave of vehicle crash worthiness tests for the decrease in these fatality rates. These tests began back in 1978 as the NHTSA started the first comparative safety test and released the information to the public. This test and the release of this information caused automakers to begin improvements to their vehicles safety standards.

Other organizations have jumped on the bandwagon and started to rate cars based on their safety features. From this, the IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK was created. This system allow consumers to choose their vehicles based on a safety and performance rating and to determine which vehicles are most likely to keep them safe in the event of an accident.

But where do we go from here?

Many are awaiting new crash avoidance technology, currently available in some new model cars, to take a majority of the risks of an accident out of the driver’s hands and into the brain of the car. New technologies like these can help one to avoid collisions, to avoid veering out of a lane and to help stop the car if a driver fails to do so.

Many new vehicles come equipped with side-view assist, turn-by-turn navigation, adaptive headlamps and other features to ease the stress of driving. While these new technologies are meant to help avoid collisions, the IISH reports that these technologies are relevant in nearly 2 million accidents each year and are present in more than 10,000 fatal accidents.

Many safe driving advocates would like to see more road improvements to decrease these rates even more. Many would like to see more roundabouts. Roundabouts are intersection designs that both move more traffic and improve safety. These safe traffic intersections are just beginning to show up in the United States. If is estimated that if just 10 percent of intersections in our county with traffic lights were converted to roundabouts, we would be able to prevent approximately 70,000 accidents each year, with nearly 500 of them fatal.

“This continuing decline in highway deaths is encouraging, but our work is far from over,” said National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland. “We want to see those numbers drop further. We will not stop as long as there are still lives lost on our nation’s highways. We must continue our efforts to ensure seat belts are always used and stay focused on reducing distracted and impaired driving.”

According to the NHTSA, fatal traffic accidents in the Unites States in 2009 took the lives of more than 25,000 vehicle occupants and injured another 2.35 million. Illinois saw more than 700 vehicles involved in fatal traffic accidents in 2009 alone. Of all SUVs, pickup trucks, vans, and other forms of vehicle transportation, passenger vehicles, which a majority of us drive, were involved in the greatest number of fatal accidents on out state’s roadways.

With all of these advancements in road laws and regulations, car feature upgrades and roadway improvements, the most beneficial and effective way to decrease the number of car accident fatalities and increase the safety of motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists is to focus the attention inward and concentrate on our own driving habits.
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Over 20 percent of drivers in the United States, approximately 36.9 million of them, would fail a driving test if they had to take one today, Yahoo news is reporting. This is according to a new survey of motorists nationwide done by GMAC Insurance.

Our Chicago injury lawyers note that this statistic is actually an improvement compared to last year, when 38 million drivers were unfit to be on the road. Nationally this year the average score was 77.9%, compared to 76.2% in 2010. The results indicate that many drivers on the road could have dangerous driving habits, which could in turn lead to a higher number of Illinois traffic collisions.

Here are some of the highlights of the survey:

-85% of the drivers in the survey did not know the proper actions to take while approaching a yellow light;

-75% of motorists did not know safe following distances;

-Drivers in the Midwest scored the highest on the test, while drivers in the Northeast scored the lowest;

-The oldest group of drivers tested, ages 60 to 65, scored the highest on the test at 80.3%;

-Wyoming scored the highest of all states, where more than 95% of drivers passed the test; and
– Of major cities, Washington D.C. fared the worst on the test.

The annual GMAC drivers test was given to 5130 drivers from the 50 states. It’s a 20 question exam with questions taken from state department of motor vehicles exams.

As a lawyer that has been handling auto accident claims for many years, I can tell you that the results of this test does not surprise me. Every week I deal with personal injury cases where a driver involved either 1. did not know the rules of the road or 2. failed to obey the rules of the road.

Here are some of the rules that are most often violated:

My office often receives phone calls from drivers who have been injured when they failed to yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic while making a left turn. They usually have similar excuses, such as the other driver came out of nowhere, or the other driver must have been speeding because otherwise they would have seen them. We always decline these cases. At the same time, we often represent drivers who were injured by motorists who failed to yield while turning left.

Some of the other most common violations I come across would be driving too fast for conditions and following too closely. Usually this rule of the road violation results in the driver rear ending the vehicle in front of them.

Another violation I often deal with, which can be the most deadly, is failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. So often motorists in urban areas are busy looking out for the danger of other vehicles, they forget to keep a proper lookout for pedestrians who are defenseless and can be severely injured by even a light impact.

The same can be said for bicycle accidents. In my experience, drivers turning left will often yield to oncoming motor vehicle traffic and forget to pay attention to bicyclists. Or drivers forget to look for bike riders when opening car doors. Even slow speed bike accidents can result in serious trauma.

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Baby Boomers fuel a new safety system used to help save those involved in a car accident in Chicago and elsewhere in the country.

The Yellow Dot program will now help drivers to alert first responders to vital personal information in the event of a traffic accident. The system will provide authorities with the vital information within the first 60 minutes, often called the “golden hour”, after a serious accident, according to USA Today. This time period can make the between life and death for accident victims.Our Chicago car accident attorneys understand that, as simple as this new system is it is also extremely effective. Here’s how it works. Participants in the system will have a yellow dot to put on their rear window. This sticker tells emergency responders that there’s a folder in the glove box that is marked with this same yellow dot. This folder should contain a picture of the motorist, prescription information, medical conditions and other necessary information. The free program started in Connecticut in 2002 and is now being used in 27 different countries.

States that are currently using the Yellow Dot programs include Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Virginia, Alabama and New York. Georgia is currently considering the implementation of the program. While each state relies on a slightly different variation of the system, the main goal in each area is the same — to save lives.

“It is very nice to see innovative programs to address the unique risks associated with older Americans and car crashes,” says Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Since older individuals tend to have more medical conditions, are on more medications and are generally more fragile, this sounds like a well-justified program, especially in light of the growing number of older Americans.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that roughly 10,111,000 passenger vehicles were involved in police-reported traffic accidents in 2009. Of these, nearly 50,500 of them were involved in fatal accidents resulting in an estimated 25,000 deaths. In the same year, a reported 2.35 million vehicle occupants were injured.

Baby boomers will face an even greater risk of injury or death on our roadways. The NHTSA reports that those motorists over the age of 65 saw nearly 5,500 fatalities, and another 187,000 injuries, as a result of traffic accidents in 2009. Motorist fatalities in this age group made up more than 15 percent of all traffic deaths and another 8 percent of all motorist injuries.

Illinois saw nearly 300 fatal traffic accidents with drivers above the age of 55 in 2009.

“It’s a promising approach,” says Jonathan Adkins, spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association. “Actually, this is one of the goals of automated crash notification systems. Eventually, when there is a crash, these key data such as medication needed will automatically be available to EMTs. The Yellow Dot program may be a system that can be helpful in the meantime.”
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The new STANDUP Act is now urging states in the U.S. to adopt Graduated Driver Licensing laws to make sure teens meet specific minimum driving requirements, according to the National Safety Council. The new recommendations aim to help reduce the number of teen car accidents in Chicago and elsewhere in the United States.

Illinois was one of the first states to adopt a graduation driver’s licensing program, a move that has been credited with significantly reducing the number of fatal teen car crashes in Illinois each year.

Car accidents remain the number one cause of death for teens. Car accidents take the lives of more teens than the next three leading causes of death combined, which are homicide, suicide and disease. Statistics report that approximately 3,000 teens were killed, and more than 350,000 were injured in accidents involving teen drivers last year.Our Chicago car accident lawyers understand that teen drivers lack experience and safety knowledge as they possess much less driving time on the road than veteran drivers. It is important for parents and the community to come forward to discuss with teens the responsibilities and possible consequences of making poor driving decisions.

“Teen driving safety has become a national public safety issue,” said Janet Froetscher, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “Every day, 15 people die in motor vehicle crashes involving teen drivers including teens, their passengers, people in other vehicles and pedestrians. The STANDUP Act encourages states to pass stronger GDL laws, which are proven to reduce teen driving crashes by up to 40 percent.”

States must meet the following requirements under the STANDUP Act:

Three stages of licensing for these young drivers, including learner’s permits, intermediate stages, and full licensing, should be used.

Age 16 should be the earliest age at which a teen can begin the permit process.

Nighttime driving while unsupervised should be restricted, or closely monitored, during the intermediate stages of the learner’s permit until the teen receives their full license at the age of 18.

Driving while using cell phone, texting, or any other distracting devices should be prohibited, at the very least, until the age of 18.

Unrestricted, full licensing should not occur before the age of 18.

Passengers should be restricted. It is suggested that no more than one non-familial passenger that is under age 21 be present in the vehicle unless a licensed driver over the age of 21 is present.

Illinois experienced nearly 150 deaths because of car accidents that involved at least one teen driver in 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers you this parent-teen driving contract to help reach an agreement between you and your child regarding safe driving habits and rules.
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More than 100 schools statewide were selected to participate in the Operation Teen Safe Driving Program. Schools were asked to use their imagination and creativity to develop programs to help educate their peers about the importance of safe driving.

The Illinois Department of Transportation funds the program along with Ford Motor Company, the Allstate Foundation and Illinois State Police (ISP). This is the fourth year the program has been offered to our Illinois students. The program is offered in our region to help reduce the risks of teen driving accidents in Chicago and the surrounding areas.Our Chicago car accident lawyers understand the importance of these driving programs as they may have affected the recent decrease in Illinois teen motor-vehicle fatalities. Records show that teen driving fatalities have significantly decreased since the program began back in 2007.

“When I established the Teen Driver Safety Task Force the goal was to improve Illinois’ graduated driver licensing (GDL) law and, even more importantly, to save lives,” said Secretary of State Jesse White. “I am encouraged that teen driving deaths have dropped by 50 percent since the law took effect January 1, 2008. This law, in conjunction with the Operation Teen Safe Driving initiative, is having the intended impact on teen driving safety. My congratulations to the winners as well as to all schools that participated in this important program. Working together, we can save more lives and make Illinois roads safer for all of us.”

Thirty-five schools have been invited to join Ford Motor Company in Springfield for their Driving Skills for Life, “Ride and Drive” events. These events offer hands-on experiences with speed/space management, hazard recognition/accident avoidance and handling/skid control.

Students will be able to jump behind the wheel to complete rigorous driving exercises. In addition to event participation, the top five schools in each of our seven regions will receive cash prizes between $500 and $2,500 to host a post-prom event.

“The proper education of our teen drivers is a crucial component in the short and long term reduction of traffic crash fatalities,” said ISP Interim Director Patrick Keen. “The partnerships formed between public and private entities, and the accomplishments achieved by the students in the program, are a testament to the dedication of everyone involved in the Operation Teen Safe Driving program. The ISP is encouraged by the ongoing dialogue and commitment of these young adults who share their time, talents, and energy to promote awareness and safe driving practices.”

Car accidents are the leading cause of death in those 15 to 20 years of age. In the U.S., nearly 2,400 young drivers died in car accidents and roughly 196,000 were injured in 2009, showing a 15 percent decrease from 2008. Illinois suffered more than 130 fatalities from car accidents involving young drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 in 2009.

Ford’s Driving Skills for Life offers parents with this safe teen driving interactive toolkit to help educate their young drivers on how to travel safer on our roadways.
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A professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago has come to the conclusion that red light cameras in the city do not decrease the number of Chicago car accidents. The professor’s reasoning was reported today in the Vancouver Sun.

The City of Chicago is claiming that right angle accidents at intersections with red light cameras were reduced by 20%, and that all types of accidents were reduced by 10%. Professor Rajiv Shah seems to agree with that statistic (actually at around a 21% decrease when analyzing traffic trends from 2001 through 2008), but the problem is that accident rates have actually declined all across the City of Chicago, including on freeways, near schools and construction sites, and on city streets.

The professor’s theory for the decrease in accidents is that Chicago residents drove around 1 billion less miles in 2008 than they drove in 2002. So his belief is essentially that less miles driven equals less accidents, and therefore read light cameras have not played a significant role in accident reduction.

Shah then analyzed the Illinois Department of Transportation’s data for red light cameras installed between 2006 and 2007, and there were some concerning results. He found that the year after the cameras were installed, accidents of all types at those intersections had a 6% increase. He believes that this was due to an increase of rear end accidents at those locations.

In my own personal experience, I can understand the theory. I regularly pass by red light cameras at two intersections on the North Shore of Chicago at Willow Road. I know the cameras are there, and when a light turns yellow I tend to jam on the brakes (and then look in the rearview mirror and hope that I’m not going to get hit from behind). I seem to do this even though I feel it would be safer to go through the intersection.

The article goes on to point out that there is some evidence that red light cameras have led to a decrease in severe Chicago accidents. However, the decrease only adds up to only a 1.5% difference, and the professor feels that this percentage is so small that it is “statistically meaningless”. (The Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications compared 10 red light camera intersections to 10 regular intersections and found a 5.3% decrease in severe accidents at red light cameras, as compared to only 3.8% decrease at normal traffic signals).

Shah goes on in the article to give the opinion that in Chicago red light cameras are really all about revenue. In 2009 alone, red light cameras produced over $60 million in fines.

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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is accusing the federal government of getting sidetracked by text messaging and runaway Toyotas instead of tackling the tough work of forcing the auto industry to incorporate better safety technology into vehicles, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Our Chicago accident attorneys have reported exhaustively, both here and on our sister site Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, regarding the efforts by the government to combat text messaging and cell phone use by drivers.

The Toyota recall issues was well-documented, if not drastically overplayed, throughout the spring and summer months.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration blames 6,000 deaths and 500,000 injuries a year on distracted driving. However, about 34,000 deaths — or 100 deaths a day — occur on the nation’s roads. Traffic crashes remain the number one cause of accidental death in the United States.

“There’s nothing rational about the way we set highway safety priorities,” said Institute President Adrian Lund in the organization’s August Status Report. the IIHS is the safety and advocacy arm of the insurance industry. “You’d think from the media coverage, congressional hearings, and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s focus in recent months that separating drivers from their phones would all but solve the public-health problem of crash deaths and injuries — It won’t.”

Naturally, the U.S. Department of Transportation took exception to the Institute’s position in a response published in the Wall Street Journal.

“Safety is the Department of Transportation’s number one priority, which is why we are aggressively and urgently tackling a number of risks to drivers’ safety,” the DOT’s statement said. “We are going to continue taking drunk drivers off the road, getting people to put down their phones and other distractions, making sure cars and trucks are safe to drive, and doing whatever else is necessary to keep Americans safe behind the wheel.”

Whether the government has overemphasized Toyota defects and the dangers of text messaging is debatable. However, the NHTSA has yet to release traffic accident statistics from last year, which usually occurs by mid-summer. The NHTSA is the arm that has taken a lead role in both issues.
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Illinois recorded the fewest traffic fatalities since 1923, according to an exhaustive report on 2008 traffic fatalities released by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The Chicago car accident attorneys and the Chicago injury lawyers at Abels & Annes are taking a look at the report in a series of blog here at our Chicago Car Accident Lawyers Blog and our sister site, Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog.

“We believe these reductions are evident that Illinois’ traffic safety efforts are working,” Gov. Pat Quinn said.

Setting clear driving safety rules for your teenage driver and not giving them their own vehicle can reduce the chances of your child being involved in a serious or fatal car accident.

Those findings were the result of two studies funded by State Farm Insurance Co. and conducted by researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The Chicago car accident lawyers and child injury attorneys at Abels & Annes urge parents to talk frequently with their children about driving safety. Automobile accidents are the No. 1 cause of death for teenagers ages 15 to 19, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

According to the Associated Press, results of the most recent studies, released Friday and published in the October issue of Pediatrics, show talking frequently with your teenager about driving safety and not allowing teenagers free access to their own vehicle can help prevent some of the 5,000 teenage road fatalities each year.

One in every 7 fatal accidents in the United States involves a teenager and fatal traffic accidents account for 40 percent of all teenage deaths. Another 250,000 teenagers are seriously injured each year in automobile accidents.

“With teen drivers, you have to recognize that it’s a public health issue,” said Dr. Jeffrey Weiss, a Phoenix pediatrician who co-wrote an American Academy of Pediatrics report on teen drivers.

The research is based on a nationally representative survey of more than 5,500 teens in grades nine through 11.

More than 2,000 students who reported driving on their own were the focus of one study; 70 percent said they had their own cars or were the main drivers of cars they used.

Dr. Flaura Koplin Winston, the lead researcher in one of the studies, said it’s alarming that so many kids have their own cars or feel that they have free use of one. She said that freedom can lead to “a sense of entitlement about driving” that may make them less cautious.

Among these drivers, 1 in 4 had been involved in crashes, versus just 1 in 10 of teens who shared access to a vehicle.

Kids who said their parents set clear driving rules and monitored their whereabouts had half as many crashes and better driving habits. These teens were 71 percent less likely to drink and drive and 30 percent less likely to use a cell phone while driving than kids with parents who were uninvolved in their driving habits.

Dr. Niranjan Karnik, a University of Chicago specialist in adolescent mental health, said the research underscores the importance of active parenting and graduated licensing laws for teens.

The AAA Foundation has resources for safe teen driving, which can be accessed at

The Chicago car accident attorneys recently wrote about Illinois’ Operation Teen Safe Driving, which also offers resources for teenagers and their parents.

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