Saliva Tests For Drug Detection In Illinois Raises More Questions Than Answers

I wrote earlier this week about the legalization of recreational marijuana in Illinois. As I mentioned in the article, state police and individual police departments will be tasked with determining whether drivers are impaired by more than just alcohol. This will be difficult because marijuana can stay in someones blood for up to 30 days, and sometimes longer depending on how frequent someone uses the drug.

One police department, Carol Stream, has started a pilot program to test saliva of drivers who have already been arrested. The program is being funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation (“IDOT”).  An officer currently determines whether a driver is impaired at the scene, brings that driver back to the police station, administers a chemical test (blood or urine) and then the saliva test is offered on a voluntary basis. It does not affect that person’s case and is just part of a study. The testing has not been approved to be used roadside.

Let me be clear, I have a lot of problems with this program, and a lot of questions need to be answered. First, readers should realize that there are 4th amendment (illegal search and seizure) violation issues that arise with this type of testing. If someone is pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence, they do not have to submit to a breathalyzer test. No police officer can force you to take that test. Although, the saliva test has not been approved for roadside use, there will never be a time where I believe courts will confirm that forcing this type of test when someone is pulled over would be legal under the 4th amendment. Also, a driver does not have to submit to a blood test either. Although, if someone is arrested, a police officer can seek a warrant to take someone’s blood sample. Again, will the police be able to seek a warrant for a saliva test as well? I do not believe these types of warrants should be allowed unless or until the accuracy of these tests passes scientific measure. Again, how accurate are these tests? I don’t think we know yet.

Without knowing more, I cannot endorse this type of saliva testing by police departments. Remember, if you do get pulled over, you do have rights. You do not have to submit to any of these tests without a proper warrant. Also, always contact an attorney if you have been arrested. You have rights, and one of those is to defend yourself against charges to DUI and against illegal searches and seizures.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a Chicago traffic accident or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

AAA Study: 13% Of Americans Do Not Think Driving High On Marijuana IS Dangerous

The American Automobile Association (“AAA”) released results of a study this week regarding the perceptions of marijuana use while driving. AAA surveyed 2,582 drivers and found more than 13% thought driving while high on marijuana was “only slightly dangerous” or “not dangerous at all” compared to driving while drunk, drowsy or impaired by prescription drugs. Among those surveyed, 70% said the odds of getting caught by police if you drive within an hour of consuming marijuana are low.

The study also revealed that nearly 15 million Americans admitted to driving within an hour of consuming marijuana, the AAA reported. Impairment from marijuana typically occurs quickly — within the first one to four hours of using the drug, AAA researchers said, adding that driving while stoned doubles the risk of a car crash.

This study comes on the heels of the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Illinois. Illinois Governor Pritzker signed the bill into law last week which will make marijuana legal in the state starting on January 1, 2020.

The question that many Illinois law enforcement agencies are now facing is how to deal with drivers who may be impaired while under the influence of marijuana. Unlike alcohol, there is no roadside breathalyzer that will detect marijuana use. Further, if the driver is detained and or arrested for erratic driving and then has their blood tested while in custody, there is no way to time stamp when the marijuana entered the driver’s system. Marijuana has been known to stay in a driver’s system for up to thirty (30) days, depending on frequency of use. Law enforcement will be tasked with this issue going forward and anticipate writing about this a lot in future once marijuana becomes legal and law enforcement agencies start announcing ways to deal with drivers who may be under the influence.

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in Chicago car crash or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury attorney, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

Navy Pier Flyover Lane Closed This Week

Those who use the lakefront path for biking, running or walking have notice all the construction that has occurred over the last four (4) years. This included a flyover lane that was raised above lake shore drive parallel to Navy Pier. This lane, which a portion was opened at the end of 2018, has lanes available for both bicyclists and pedestrian joggers and walkers.

I was pleased to see this addition to the lakefront as it prevents bicyclists and joggers from having to occupy a much more dangerous stretch of sidewalk below (Lower Lake Shore Drive), which is directly adjacent to traffic exiting and entering Lake Shore Drive. Not only is the sidewalk below close to vehicle traffic, but it is incredibly narrow and hard from bicycles and pedestrians to occupy it at the same time, especially on busy days.

The city announced late last week that the flyover lane will be closed today, June 24 through June 27, as workers lay down permanent lane striping. Along with the rest of the lakefront, the flyover will now also have separate lanes for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The entire bridge is expected to be completed by the end of 2019. The flyover will span from at Ohio Street Beach and hug Lake Point Tower, clear the Ogden Slip, bypass Dusable Park and span the mouth of the Chicago River.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a Chicago bicycle accident or Chicago Traffic Accident, then call Chicago personal injury attorney, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

New Illinois Texting And Driving Law Takes Effect July 1st

A new Illinois traffic law takes effect on July 1, which will eliminate a free pass to first time offenders caught texting and driving. If someone is pulled over for texting and driving, and the officer has probable cause to believe the driver was in fact using their phone while driving, they will be issued a ticket rather than a warning. The previous law allowed drivers who were first time offenders to receive a warning.

More importantly, the new law also means that the ticket is a moving violation, which is misdemeanor in Illinois rather than a simple ordinance violation. In Illinois, your license will become suspended if you receive three (3) moving violations within a twelve (12) month period.

The law means no texting, talking, accessing the maps app and so on, unless with hands-free phone technology such as Bluetooth. It is also illegal to text or talk while holding a device at a stop sign, at a red light or while sitting in traffic.

I have been writing about texting and driving laws for years and the need for stiffer penalties. Hopefully now that drivers know that they will be charged with a misdemeanor, and could affect their pocket book and ultimately their right to driver, they will be more willing to put their phones down while driving.

If you receive a ticket, this does not necessarily mean it should be automatically paid. Drivers have the right to go to court and contest the ticket. In fact, if you do not think you have violated the statute and were wrongly ticketed, I recommend hiring an attorney and going to court to contest the ticket.

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in a Chicago traffic accident or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

Chicago Mayor Transfers Defense Of City’s Workers’ Compensation Claims To Private Company

Multiple news outlets, including Crain’s Chicago, reported last week that new Chicago Mayor, Lori Lightfoot, has pulled the claims handling of the city’s workers compensation claims away from Alderman Edward Burke and transferred the files to private company Gallagher Basset. Gallagher Basset is often referred to as a Third Party Administrator (“TPA”) that provides claims handling for self-insureds and often larger insurance companies.

Lightfoot’s decision comes after an audit performed by Grant Thorton, concluded “the $100 million-a-year program failed to follow proper industry standards and suffered from “significant control deficiencies and weaknesses that would create an environment” where fraud, waste and abuse could exist. ” It is important to point out that the audit did not specify any specific instances of fraud, but rather the system was open to this type of activity and needed to be operated more efficiently.

This is an interesting turn of events as Alderman Burke was recently indicted by the federal government on charges of attempted extortion of local property developers.

Mayor Lightfoot had the following to say about the audit and transfer of claims to the outside firm: ” Government systems of this magnitude have “no business being operated by a single individual (Burke), with no oversight,” she added. “There’s no point at which Grant Thornton believes this plan was acting anywhere near best industry practices.”

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a Chicago work accident or has a Chicago workers’ compensation claim, then call Chicago workers’ comp attorney, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

Illinois State Police Cracking Down on DUIs During Summer Months

Summer is finally here and there is more traffic out on the roads than any other time of year. This is especially true over holiday weekends like Memorial Day and Fourth of July. The Illinois State Police and over 160 local law enforcement agencies are planning ahead to prepare for all the drivers on the road and launching “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” and “Click It or Ticket” campaigns.

Both of these traffic safety campaigns are made possible by federal traffic safety funds administered by the Illinois Department of Transportation. The crackdown runs concurrently with a media campaign reminding motorists that impaired driving has “Life or Death” consequences.  The safety campaign will run June 17 through July 8 to encompass three summer weekends leading up to and after Independence Day. The Illinois State Police and local police departments have issued the following tips to help make the roads safer, and ultimately save lives:

  • Give your designated driver your keys before you go out.
  • If you are drunk or impaired by marijuana or other drugs, call a taxi, take mass transit, use your favorite ride-sharing service, or call a sober friend or family member to get you home safely.
  • Promptly report drunk drivers to law enforcement by pulling over and dialing 911.
  • Make sure everyone in your vehicle wears their seat belt. Not only is it the law, it’s your best defense against an impaired driver.

There will be a lot more police officers on the roads the next few weeks. This should not be the only reason to be careful before getting behind the wheel. More importantly, you can save the lives of those in your vehicle and the vehicles around you by deciding not to drink and drive.

If you or loved one have been seriously injured in an Illinois truck accident or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant at 312-614-1076 for a free legal consultation.

What The $45 Billion Infrastructure Bill Means For Chicagoans

New Illinois Governor Jay “JB” Pritzker is being lauded for a wave of new legislation that has passed on a bipartisan basis at the end of the Spring session. This includes a $45 billion infrastructure bill that is aimed at re-building roads and bridges throughout the state. The state will pay for this bill, in part, by doubling the fuel tax from .19 cents per gallon to .38 cents and also through various increases on things from ride-sharing trips, paid parking garages and vehicle registration.

The question I have is how is this new bill going to affect Chicagoans? The legislative package includes $350 million in funding to fix rail congestion and traffic delays. The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) would get an additional $3.2 billion for infrastructure projects, which includes $60 million for repairs on the Green Line Cottage Grove station. $31.5 million was earmarked for improvements to the Blue Line’s O’Hare branch, along with another $50 million for tactical traction power upgrades. Another $220 million in capital upgrades for Pace suburban bus service. Money will be given to Amtrak for upgrades to the Chicago – Champaign – Carbondale route, and the Chicago to Rockford route.

Also, I have read on various outlets that about $50 million will be dedicated to bicycle and pedestrian projects, including pedestrian islands and better crosswalks, as well as protected bike lanes and multi-use trails.

This is an incredibly important investment in this state. We can only hope that the governor and his departments use this money properly and improve what has been needed for years.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a Chicago car crash or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

Chicago’s Electric Scooter Program Raises Safety Issues

On June 15 Chicago will launch its’ first electric scooter program. The scooters will be available to rent. The program will only allow use in designated areas between Irving Park and Pershing Roads. The Chicago Loop has specifically been omitted due to congestion and multiple other transportation options in the area. According to the city, one of the purposes of this program is an effort to “reduce single occupancy vehicle use.” 2,500 scooters will be available wherever it’s legal to lock a bike in public. They’re limited to 15 mph, and they will not be allowed on sidewalks.

Electric scooters in major metropolitan areas have created multiple safety concerns. Electric scooters are responsible for deaths in Dallas, Washington, D.C., Chula Vista, California, and Cleveland. A study, released in January by the Journal of the America Medical Association found of 249 emergency room patients in scooter accidents, most were head injuries, fractures, and soft-tissue injuries. One problem is a lack of helmets. Only 11% of patients under 18 and just over 4% of older riders wore a helmet. Two of those patients had severe head injuries and were placed in intensive care units.

Currently, there are no state laws in Illinois or local Chicago ordinances that require riders wear helmets. The good news is that the city has required the vendors to supply $5 million is insurance coverage per incident.

I have seen these scooters in other cities and for some riders, unfortunately, have not been easy to maneuver. I saw a woman fall down from her scooter in a parking lot and an ambulance had to be called. The problem I foresee is that Chicago is such a dense city. There are large amounts of vehicle and foot traffic in every neighborhood (not just the downtown loop). I hope this project works, but I think the city needs to watch this closely before expanding due to all the safety concerns. I would also like to see a local helmet requirement be put into place. The good news is there appears to be ample insurance in case there are electric scooter accidents that cause serious injuries.

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in a Chicago traffic accident or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury attorney, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

Pedestrian Fatalities In Chicago Down 40% So Far This Year

I have written on this blog multiple times about Chicago’s Vision Zero. It is a traffic safety plan implemented by outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanual who’s goal was to eliminate all pedestrian traffic deaths by 2026. Part of the plan has been the implementation of speeding cameras, larger and more visible cross walks with traffic stop signs and designated bicycle lanes. Vision Zero was off to a rocky start as last year alone saw an uptick in Chicago pedestrian fatalities. Traffic safety might be improving.

According to Block Club Chicago, a local online news source, pedestrian deaths have decreased in so far this year compared to data collected from this time last year.

Between Jan. 1, 2018, and May 31, 2018, 20 pedestrians were killed in Chicago. During the same period in 2019, only 12 people on foot were killed in crashes, according to data presented last week to the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council. Chicago Dept. of Transportation Assistant Commissioner Sean Wiedel called that very encouraging news.

So far, no specific data or studies have been provided to the press explain the decrease in deaths. The article points to the increased number of vehicles on the roads, higher speed limits and a growing number of drivers and those on foot distracted by cell phones and other electronic devices as the main causes for the uptick in pedestrian deaths in recent years. I would like to see what the numbers are by the end of the year to see if any of the policies implemented by Vision Zero could explain why the numbers decreased this years. I would also like to know if new mayor, Lori Lightfoot, plans to keep Vision Zero a priority for the city. Regardless, this is encouraging news, and we can only hope that the numbers continue to decrease the rest of the year and years to come.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a Chicago traffic accident or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

Will Major League Baseball Require Further Expansion Of Protective Nets?

Major League Baseball (“MLB”) Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke to the media this week regarding growing concern of fan safety from foul balls hit into the crowd. His short answer regarding net expansion was no, MLB would not be expanding protective nets this season. His reasoning was that the structural issues in each individual stadium would make it difficult to mandate changes during the season, but the recent incident at Minute Maid Park will lead to conversations into the off-season.

These comments come a week after a young child was severely injured at a Houston Astro’s game at Minute Maid Park. Following the game several Cubs players (the Astro’s opponent) offered their dismay about the continued threat that fans face from foul balls slicing into the crowd. Balls that can fly into the crowd up to 90 mph. If it was up to Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, the teams would provide netting around the entire stadium. Maybe he has a point. This has been an ongoing issue for the MLB dating back the last several years. As I have written here on the past, almost every year a handful of fans have been seriously injured, with one dying at a Boston Red Sox game last season. MLB responded by requiring all teams expand netting all the way to the end of each dugout.

The question is whether the current netting system is enough protection. I don’t think it is. This is especially disheartening because courts have continuously protected major league sports teams from liability when fans are injured by balls at games. The courts have used a common law assumption of risk argument that all fans know that there a risks such as errant foul balls that fly into the crowd. If the netting isn’t expanded this off-season, then I think state legislators should consider laws that would lift the common law protection for major league teams that continue to allow these injuries to occur to their fans.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a Chicago personal injury matter or a Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.