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When it comes to driving in Chicago, most motorists tend to believe that their skills are better than average and that they are not part of the problems facing others on the roadways. However, statistically, all drivers in Illinois and elsewhere in the nation make mistakes or poor decisions on occasion, increasing the odds that they will cause a car accident or other traffic incident that may lead to injuries.

A recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that anger, aggression, or road rage among drivers is so pervasive that 80 percent of all drivers admitted to having one or more of these attributes while driving within the prior 12 months.

The findings come from a survey that asked drivers about their general and specific habits while operating a motor vehicle on a public roadway. Importantly, many drivers tend to report their own conduct in a light favorable to their actions so these numbers may be lower than the actual experience. Further, as so many drivers find themselves with feelings of frustration, it is a warning sign to the few among us who keep their cool at all times that the motorist next to them may not be doing the same and may engage in aggressive or even damaging conduct as a result.

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So often, Chicago drivers tell themselves “it won’t happen to me” when they think about a car accident occurring. Most motorists believe that they are better than average when it comes to their skills behind the wheel and that their experience and technique alone will be enough to keep them safe. Unfortunately, accidents happen each and every day in our city and a large number of them cause victims to be injured annually, forcing those victims to take time off from work while they recover and incur medical expenses due to the crash.

The Illinois Department of Transportation (“IDOT”) tracks and records traffic-related incidents annually. For 2014, IDOT noted that 296,049 crashes involving a motor vehicle happened within the state’s borders, a number that should both shock and alarm citizens regardless of where they live. These crashes included single car accidents, accidents between two or more vehicles, collisions involving trucks, buses, and vans, motorcycle crashes, and those where a pedestrian was hurt. Put simply, the number and breadth of collisions occurring on Illinois roads is so vast and broad that all citizens should take note as their safety could be threatened if they become the victim of an accident.

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Riding a bicycle in Chicago or elsewhere in Illinois can be a fantastic experience. You can move about town with relative ease, travel without worrying about parking costs or the soaring price of gasoline, and you can even enjoy the scenery while you ride. When you consider the added benefits of the physical exertion you get riding a bike, the cost savings by avoiding an expensive insurance payment for your car, and even the price break you get avoiding costs and routine maintenance on a vehicle, the only question may be why more people are not riding.

However, every year, a greater number of adults and children alike take to Chicago’s roadways to cycle for one reason or another. As this culture grows, the daily interactions between cyclists and motorists increase as well. Most of these encounters are innocent and proceed as they should. A number, however, turn far darker when a bicycle accident happens or when a traffic incident causes one or more people involved to be hurt.

When questioned after a crash, many drivers report that they were unsure of what a cyclist was going to do or where she was heading, leading the driver to make an inappropriate call regarding her own conduct that caused the impact. Experts agree that understanding and using hand signals at the right time can go a long way to eliminating these incidents caused by miscommunication.

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When it comes to driving in the Chicago area, not all roads are created equal. Some are well-maintained, well-designed, and function as intended to, allowing traffic to progress with few problems. Others seem to have been in need of repaving or updating for decades, leaving motorists to question why they have been so neglected by local officials and what will have to happen before changes are made.

The level of traffic on a specific roadway contributes quite a bit to that road’s overall safety and functionality. The more vehicles that use an area, the more likely that congestion will result, particularly if a car accident or crash happens and forces a backup beyond the affected vehicles.

With more than 300,000 vehicles using the Dan Ryan Expressway on a typical weekday, it has been dubbed the busiest road in the entire state, along with the Kennedy Expressway on the city’s north side. The Dan Ryan is known to locals for its high speeds and stiff congestion and is so infamous that many plan their entire transit times around anticipated rush hour traffic. If you fail to plan before getting on the Dan Ryan, odds are that you will find yourself in stop-and-go conditions.

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If you plan to drive in Illinois, you are required to take several steps. You must be licensed to operate a motor vehicle, must do so within the laws of the state, and must carry insurance on your car, to name a few of the requirements. But until recently, those who took a driver’s education class in the state did not have to receive an education on what to do if they were stopped by police. While many classes taught drivers how to operate on a public roadway, when to use a turn signal, and how to proceed on an expressway, only some were discussing what a driver should do if he or she were stopped by local law enforcement officers.

Now, a new law passed at the state level is changing that. A bill signed into law last month will require all driver’s education classes to cover a portion of their teaching curriculum on what procedures to follow if the driver is involved in a lawful traffic stop. The purpose of this new law is to help educate this newest group of drivers so that they are prepared for all aspects of driving, including some of the ones they may prefer to avoid.

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Drivers in Chicago know that drinking and driving is dangerous but few are able to articulate exactly why alcohol poses a problem. In truth, the effects of alcohol on the human body are complex and the ways they interact limits a driver’s ability to control a vehicle, steer, and make informed decisions.

Almost every part of what makes us human can be affected to some degree by alcohol consumption but when it comes to safe driving, the central nervous system takes one of the biggest hits. Alcohol can so effectively alter the processes of the central nervous system that it can turn the best driver in the world into an open danger to herself and those around her. But how?

Alcohol enters the body and begins to be metabolized immediately. It is a depressant and can have psychoactive effects on users which leads to its popularity here in Illinois and across the nation. Globally, alcohol is one of the most widely and heavily used drugs among people of all ages and its popularity dates back thousands of years.

Prior to the invention of the automobile, people who drank alcohol in excess rarely posed a threat to strangers. While the effects of booze may harm a user personally, that individual rarely had the opportunity to let his actions influence others, harm others, or otherwise cause damage beyond himself. By 2014, nearly 1/3 of all traffic-related deaths in the United States happened in an accident involving a drunk driver and nearly 10,000 people lost their lives in drunk driving collisions in that year alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Cyclists are a force in Chicago. With their ranks swelling every day, even drivers who never ride cannot help but take notice of the number of bicyclists that use Chicago’s streets, pathways, and intersections. Whether they are commuting to work, riding for pleasure, or trying to squeeze in a little exercise, cyclists can be on any street at any time in Illinois regardless of the weather or season.

Bicyclists face many of the same risks that drivers face when it comes to traveling in the Chicago area. There is the possibility that someone will fail to yield to a bicyclist, causing an accident, or that a driver will run a red light. But in addition to the risks cyclists have in common with cars are some bicycle-specific risks that can lead to an incident and can even cause a rider to become injured and in need of medical treatment.

One type of common bicycle accident faced by riders is often referred to as a right hook crash. This type of accident is dangerous and often unavoidable for a rider – though completely avoidable by a driver who causes the crash.

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You just finished your Sunday morning shopping, the parking lot is jam-packed, and after navigating the store that was as equally crowded you are more than ready to get home and finally relax. You carefully back out of your parking space, noticing at the very last second that someone with a grocery cart has suddenly appeared right behind your car. Luckily, you hit the brakes in time and no one is hurt. You are finally on your way out of the parking lot madness when THUD…someone backing out of their space rammed right into the side of your car. The passenger door is seriously dented, your mirror is gone, but you and the other driver are okay.

This scenario plays out in parking lots across Chicago every day and in most cases the damage is minimal and injuries are rare.

In parking lot accidents, the traffic lane (with vehicles that are not parked and driving through the aisles) has the right of the way. Thus if a person was backing out of a parking space when a collision occurred, the driver backing out will most likely be held liable.

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Chicago is one of the most bike friendly cities in America with over 200 miles of dedicated bike lanes and with the beautiful Lakefront Trail, cyclists are able to find a little slice of paradise amidst the busy city.

The city’s bicycle sharing system – Divvy – has helped to further develop Chicago’s reputation as a cyclist friendly location. I’m sure you’ve seen the baby blue bikes zooming across streets or neatly parked around kiosks. People may rent Divvy bicycles at locations from Anderson to Hyde Park and everywhere in between, and there are plans to extend the ride sharing system into the suburbs.

Many residents take advantage of the Divvy system using the bikes to commute to work without the hassle of having to find somewhere to safely store their own bicycle. Tourists are also big fans of Divvy. Many visitors rent bikes to explore the city, as the rental price for 24 hours is less than the price of a 10-minute cab ride. Although Divvy presents a great travel option for visitors, things can become very dangerous when those unfamiliar with the Chicago area begin riding through the busy streets.

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By now, thousands of tourists and many native to Chicago are prepping for the start of Lollapalooza, the major music festival that takes place in Grant Park every year. Unlike many of the prior iterations of Lollapalooza, the festivities will begin tonight at 7:00 p.m., stretching the festival over the four day period from Thursday through Sunday. Lollapalooza boasts eight separate music stages and more than 170 music bands during the course of the festival that is expected to entertain hundreds of thousands. In fact, in three days last year, total attendance reached more than 300,000 with approximately 100,000 in attendance daily.

A recent article in the Chicago Tribune noted that area hospitals treated 88 intoxicated teenagers during a three-day Lollapalooza in 2015. That was a decrease from 2014 but still almost nine times as high as an average weekend in Chicago, indicating that emergency rooms in the city may be overrun at times during the festival this year.

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