Chicago Transportation Commissioner: Traffic Crashes Are A Public Health Crises

Chicago Transportation Commissioner, Rebekah Scheinfeld, spoke to a group at the  City Club of Chicago last week making the claim that the number of traffic fatalities in and around Chicago has created a major health crises. The purpose of her speech was to make the case  for “Vision Zero,” a three-year plan with the  goal of eliminating traffic deaths and serious injuries that affect 2,000 people in Chicago each year.

The “Vision Zero” plan The plan will rely heavily on signs, surveillance cameras and “data-driven” enforcement to convince Chicago motorists to stop ignoring the city’s traffic laws.

Th neighborhoods that they plan on focusing on includes: the Loop, the Near North and Near West Sides, Austin, Belmont-Cragin, East and West Garfield Park, North Lawndale, Humboldt Park, West Town, West Englewood, Englewood, Washington Park and Grand Boulevard.

“The only goal we should be aiming to achieve is zero. Zero deaths and zero serious injuries. We all have the right to walk, bike, take transit and drive on streets that are safe for everyone, regardless of who we are or where we live,” Scheinfeld said Monday.

A portion of her talk focused on the recent changes in red light tickets. Scheinfeld said the city has also agreed to begin the process to move red-light cameras from six existing intersections and place them at five new locations where the study shows red-light cameras would have a greater impact on safety.

 This is a lofty goal set forth by the city but it is the right one to make. I think it’s almost impossible to think that all traffic fatalities will be eliminated just due to the number of motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists that pack city streets everyday. If “Vision Zero” merely makes huge cuts in the number of traffic fatalities, I think it will be a success.

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

Experts Warn Self-Driving Cars Are Not Safe

The Associated Press recently reported on a meeting hosted by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) regarding self driving cars. Experts, including multiple engineers, spoke at the meeting and warned officials that self-driving vehicles still pose safety risks. The experts urged the NHTSA to issue regulations on self-driving vehicles as soon as possible as the technology is already been put out on the road unregulated.

James Niles, president of Orbit City Lab, a New York think tank, told the meeting that there is a complete absence of federal regulations and standards to prevent self-driving cars from being turned into weapons by “bad actors.”

“The concern that an autonomous vehicle could be used as a weapon has gone unnoticed by the general public and probably by the majority of government officials,” he said.

Some of the safety issues the experts believe self-driving vehicles cannot handle include:

—Poorly marked pavement, including parking lots and driveways, could foil the technology, which relies on clear lane markings.

—Bad weather can interfere with vehicle sensors.

—Self-driving cars can’t take directions from a policeman.

—Inconsistent traffic-control devices — horizontal versus lateral traffic lights, for example.

“It is dangerous, impractical and a major threat to the public health, safety and welfare to deploy them (self-driving vehicles),” said Mark Golden, executive director of the National Society of Professional Engineers.

It will be interesting to see if and when the NHTSA will react to these concerns and issue regulations. It is clear self-driving cars are not safe to put on the road and they should be restricted until the proper software has been developed along with the much needed regulations.

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

Chicago Continues To Install New Curb Protected Bike Lanes

The Chicago Tribune reported recently that the city of Chicago unveiled another new curb protected bicycle lanes. The lanes have a raised concrete median that protects bicyclists from motorists in the adjacent lane. The newest bike lane was constructed at 31st Street from LaSalle to Michigan Avenue. Previous curb protected bike lanes were installed last May on Sacramento Drive in Douglas Park, followed by one in November on Clybourn Avenue in Old Town There are plans in the works another similar lane in the downtown loop on Randolph from Michigan Avenue heading to Clinton Street in the West Loop.

“Curb-protected bike lanes provide better separation between people riding their bikes and people driving, provide better guidance for motorists as to where to park and or drive, prevent illegal parking in or near bike lanes, and are more aesthetically pleasing,” said Mike Claffey, spokesman for the Chicago Department of Transportation.

Chicago’s Mayor and the City Council catch a lot of flak for their handling of different issues like traffic cameras and the ride-sharing companies like Uber.  Regardless, I have to take my hat off to city officials for following through on their promise to make Chicago a world class bicycling city and to improve safety. These curb protected bicycle lanes are another step in that direction. Especially with amount of traffic congestion we see. It can obviously be dangerous at time for bicyclists to struggle for room on the roads. These curb protected lanes make life safer for everyone on the road.

If you or someone you love has been seriously been injured in a Chicago bicycle accident or Chicago traffic accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation.

Volkswagen Faces Massive Auto Recall

Earlier this month multiple media outlets, including MSNBC, reported that the Obama administration ordered a recall of almost 500,000 Volkswagen vehicles for intentional emission violations. The Environmental Protection Agency  (“EPA”) ordered its’ own vehicle issued the company a notice of violation and accused the company of breaking the law by installing software known as a “defeat device” in 4-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi vehicles from model years 2009-15. The device is programmed to detect when the car is undergoing official emissions testing, and to only turn on full emissions control systems during that testing. Those controls are turned off during normal driving situations, when the vehicles pollute far more heavily than reported by the manufacturer.

This type of recall is different than the one we saw a few years back against Toyota, which was for unexpected acceleration issues. In that case, the danger was specifically towards drivers as car accidents were alleged to be caused by the sudden acceleration. The Volkswagen recall is specifically for damage done to the environment. “Using a defeat device in cars to evade clean air standards is illegal and a threat to public health,” said Cynthia Giles, the E.P.A.’s assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance. “Working closely with the California Air Resources Board, E.P.A. is committed to making sure that all automakers play by the same rules. E.P.A. will continue to investigate these very serious violations.”

This is going to be a huge financial cost to Volkswagen. They are going to face lawsuits by both the EPA to repay the government for the damage to the environment. There will also be auto defect lawsuits filed by class action attorneys looking for reimbursement for the thousands of car owners based on the reduced value of their vehicles. The interesting issue here is that the actions by Volkswagen appear to be intentional. This could create additional fines and punishment requested by the EPA.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a Chicago car crash or injured by a Chicago auto defect, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

National Safety Council Reports Traffic Deaths Up In 2015

The National Safety Council announced last week that traffic fatalities are up 14% so far this year and that injuries related to traffic accidents are up 33%.

The Council has deduced that a robust economy and lower gas prices have put more people on the road, which in turn leads to more car accidents. If the trend continues, traffic deaths this year could exceed 40,000 for the first time since 2007, when there were nearly 44,000 deaths.

The Council did note that in recent years drunk driving fatalities have dropped about 20%, teen car accidents are down and seat belt use is up. The question remains is whether the increase in fatalities is due solely on a booming economy and low gas prices? The Council believed this is the main reason, but also blames the increase in speed limits in many states along with the continued number of distracted drivers. Despite multiple distracted driving campaigns on the state and federal level, more people are taking cell phone calls and texting on their phones while driving.

So we have the most amount of drivers on the road since 2007 plus more people using their cell phones while driving at faster rates. This is a dangerous combination which has led to this increase in traffic deaths. Like I have written numerous times in the past, until states stiffen the penalties for texting and driving, we will not see the numbers of traffic fatalities and serious traffic injuries drop.

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

Does Sneezing And Causing An Accident Fall Under The “Act of God” Defense

I have written over and over about the many things that can distract drivers. Of course, the most obvious is texting and phone use. Others have included everything for tooling with the radio to eating and driving. All of these activities can be very dangerous as all it takes is second or two of lost concentration for a car accident to occur.

The Chicago Sun Times reported some odd news last week when a semi-truck driver’s ill-timed sneeze sent his rig rolling onto its side Monday morning in northwest Indiana. The driver, a 48-year-old Hobart man, was not hurt in the crash, which happened on a ramp from State Route 249 to I-94 near Portage, according to Indiana State Police. As the driver entered the ramp, he started to sneeze, which caused the truck to run off the roadway and onto a grassy area where the rig rolled onto its side, State Police said.

Luckily there were no injuries to the driver and the roll over didn’t cause any other traffic accidents. I think it would be tough here to put any blame on the driver as this may fit into the “act of god” category rather than any negligence on his part. Similar “act of god” situations include suffering a heart attack, stroke or seizure while behind the wheel and causing a traffic accident. In these situations it is difficult to prove liability on the part of the driver who caused the accident, and often times defense attorneys are successful in dismissing claims or reducing liability when there is the “act of god” defense. Regardless, luckily no one was injured as this was a semi-truck accident.

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

 

Jaguar’s New Technology Aimed At Protecting Bicyclists

Autoweek.com published an article last month discussing Jaguar’s new “bike sense” technology, which is aimed at protecting bicyclists and Jaguar drivers from being involved in traffic accidents.

Bike Sense system uses sensors on the car to detect approaching bicycles and motorcycles, and alert the driver with sights and sounds that the driver instinctively associates with those two types of vehicles. So if a bicycle is approaching from the rear right side of the car, the audio system in the car will generate a bicycle bell sound from one of the speakers inside the cabin, in same direction as the approaching bicycle. The system will also be able to monitor the speed of approaching bicycles and motorcycles, and the top of the driver’s seat will extend to tap the driver on the right or left shoulder.

In addition to warning the driver by sound and by touch, Bike Sense will also use a matrix of LED light built into the window sills, the dash, and windscreen pillars, with lights glowing amber and switching to red as a bicycle approaches.  Bike Sense will also be able to detect pedestrians crossing the road in front of a moving car who are obscured by other objects.

This technology is still in testing stages but could be installed in Jaguar vehicles by the end of the decade. This is incredible technology in my mind. It is especially relevant in big cities such as Chicago that are bicycle friendly. There are always safety concerns for pedestrians and bicyclists in Chicago and Mayor Emanuel has done a solid job of promoting safety initiatives such has safer crosswalks with stop signs and designated bike lanes. Technology like “Bike Sense,” if developed by other car makers, could make a huge difference in the safety for both pedestrians and bicyclists in big cities like Chicago.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Chicago bicycle accident or Chicago auto pedestrian accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron Bryant, for a free legal consultation.

New York City Cuts Speed Limit. Should Chicago?

The New York Daily News reported this month that the New York City Council passed legislation that cut the speed limit to 25 mph. The change in speed limit was done in an effort to cut back on traffic fatalities in the city. City officials believe that the slower speed limit was decrease the chance of fatality by 50% compared to vehicles driving 30 mph. No scientific evidence or studies were provided in the article to back this claim.

“By lowering the speed limit, we send a message to drivers that they must not only drive slower, but safer on our streets,” said Transportation Committee chairman Ydanis Rodriguez. “For too long our roads have been a battleground between pedestrians and drivers, costing countless lives in preventable situations. This type of environment is unacceptable and will be tolerated no longer.”

Highways and parkways will still have higher limits, while school zones and other spots will still have lower speeds.

Should the Chicago mayor’s office and the City Council here consider a similar measure? Mayor Emanuel has stated over and over that he is committed to protecting pedestrians and bicyclists. He has taken steps by inserting speeder cameras and has opened protected bicycle lanes throughout the city. Emanuel has stated that the cameras were inserted for safety purposes only and are not a money grab for the city. Ok, then why not follow in New York’s footsteps and lower the speed limit. If safety is priority one for drivers and pedestrians, the I believe the mayor and City Council should strongly consider lowering the speed limits, at least in certain areas of the city.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Chicago car accident or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury attorney, Aaron Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.