New Study: Illinois Traffic Fatalities Rose Over Last 5 Years

The online automobile insurance company, Esurance, released a new study that traffic fatalities have risen in the United States over the last five (5) years. Illinois was once of the states that saw an increase.

The study looked at the raw number, but also included the main contributed causes to fatal car accidents during this period. According to the study, crash fatalities in Illinois went up from 991 in 2013 to 1,096 in 2017, an 11% increase.

The number one cause of traffic fatalities in the state was speed, which was 42.2% of deadly crashes. Driving under the influence had 27.3% of crashes while distracted driving had 7.2% and drug-related car crashes had 3.8%.

Over the five year period, percentage of alcohol related fatalities decreased from 32.7% down to 27.3%. Meanwhile, the number of distracted driving crashes increased from 5.6% to 7.2%.

I am somewhat surprised to see some of these numbers. First, I would have assumed larger percentage would have been attributed to distracted drivers. Although, unsurprisingly, we did see distracted driving crashes did increase. We know that distracted driving has become an epidemic in the country. I was happy to see that this year stricter traffic laws were finally enacted in Illinois to combat this issue. As I wrote last month, police officers no longer issue warnings for first offenses. Also, any type of hand held phone use while driving is considered a moving violation, which is now a misdemeanor. With that comes higher fines and it is much easier to have your license suspended ( 3 offenses within a 12 month period).

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

Illinois Governor Signs New Traffic Bill Strengthening “Scott’s Law”

Back in 2002, Illinois enacted a new traffic bill called “Scott’s Law,” which required drivers to slow down and safely change lanes when they see any vehicle on the side of the road with its hazard lights on. The Bill was named Chicago Fire Department Lt. Scott Gillen, who was killed in 2000. This Bill is often referred to as the “Move Over” law.

In a move to strengthen protections for first responders, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed an updated version of this Bill, which now protects protections to include authorized stationary vehicles with oscillating lights, first responders, Illinois Department of Transportation workers, police and anyone authorized to be on the highway for work-related duties.

The new law increases the minimum fine to $250 for a first violation and to $750 for a second and subsequent violations and adds a $250 assessment fee for any violation of Scott’s Law that will be funneled into a new fund devoted to producing driver’s education materials, called the Scott’s Law Fund.

Criminal penalties will increase to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, if a violation results in damage to another car, or a Class 4 felony, punishable by one to three years in prison, if a violation results in an injury or death. Through the new law, an aggravating factor will be added to reckless homicide charges if Scott’s Law is violated.

The secretary of state also must include a written question about Scott’s Law in the driver’s license test. This new law becomes effective immediately.

Changes to Scott’s Law come after three Illinois State Police fatalities have occurred on the side of the road. Two of the three fatalities came as a result of violations of Scott’s Law and the third involved a wrong way driver.

Let’s hope the changes to this law raise awareness for drivers when they see first responders and road workers on the side of the road to slow down and change lanes. These are workers who are in a position to help protect people, but at the same time are in incredibly vulnerable situations while often times standing on the side of a busy highway.

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

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.

Illinois State Police Enforcing New “Move Over” Law

According to the Illinois State Police’s (“ISP”) Facebook page, the department is focused on cracking down against drivers who violate the “Move Over” or “Scott’s law.” Enacted in 2017, 625 ILCS 5/11-907 (C), requires drivers drivers slow down, move over to another lane and proceed with caution if a car is stopped on the shoulder.

According to the Facebook post, in emergency situations where vehicles are stopped on the side of the road, the ISP may be placing an extra trooper near an accident to catch people who don’t follow the law. The trooper may be hiding in front of the stopped vehicle or behind another trooper vehicle, making it look like backup.

Violators of the statute will face a minimum of a $100 and up to a $10,000 fine, depending on the severity of the violation. For example, if the driver fails to slow down or switch lanes and then injures someone or causes property damage, then they will face a much higher fine. The ultimate fine is up to the discretion of the judge as there is no sliding scale written in the statute.

The law was enacted in honor of Lieutenant Scott Gillen of the Chicago Fire Department was struck and killed by an intoxicated driver while at the scene of an accident.

Please take caution when you see a vehicle on the side of the road, not just because you will avoid a ticket, but because you could avoid causing a major traffic accident.

If you or a loved was injured in a serious 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.

Illinois Passes Two New Traffic Safety Laws

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed two (2) traffic safety bills into law this month. Both will take effect in July 2019. The first law creates stiffer fines for the use of a phone while driving. The new law, makes the penalty $75 for a first offense, $100 for a second, $125 for a third and $150 for a fourth or subsequent offense. Under current law, drivers get a warning and no fine the first time.

I guess you could say this is a step in the right direction, but I do not believe these new penalties go far enough. I don’t think these fines are enough of a deterrent for drivers to put their phones down while driving. Also, I don’t see any changes or stricter penalties for distracted drivers who cause car accidents that involve property damage or personal injury. As I have written over and over in the past, unless there are higher fines and/or stricter penalties, drivers will continue to to text and drive.

The other new law adds the “Dutch Reach” method of opening car doors to Illinois’ Rules of the Road manual and adds bike safety questions to the state driver’s license exam.The Dutch Reach encourages drivers and passengers to use the hand farthest from the door to reach across the body to open the door after parallel parking. This prods people in motor vehicles to look back for cyclists and other traffic, and can help prevent sometimes-fatal “dooring” crashes.

Those of us who live in the city know that “dooring” accidents are common and incredibly dangerous. It is important for drivers to always look and use caution before opening their driver side door when parked on busy street in order to avoid oncoming cyclists. This is a step in the right direction by educating drivers of their responsibility to protect bicyclists.

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

Illinois Passes New Bicyclist Safety Law

According to various news outlets, the Illinois passed HB 1784 last week, which allows motorists to pass cyclists in no-passing zones and permits bicycling on road shoulders. Under the new law, a driver is allowed to cross into the oncoming lane in a no-passing zone to safely pass a cyclist who is riding at less than half the posted speed limit when there is sufficient distance to do so. Drivers must not exceed the speed limit and pass with at least three feet of clearance.The new law will take effect on January 1, 2018.

The purpose of the law is aimed at preventing vehicles from trying to  squeeze by a bicyclist while in the same lane, which can lead to sideswipe crashes.

This seems like an obvious bill to pass, but sometimes the obvious isn’t always codified into state or local law. I think this is important (especially in Chicago), where we are seeing more an more bicyclists on city streets and major roads throughout the state. Now motorists should not be hesitant to safely switch lanes in order to avoid contact with a bicyclists. Motorists can now do this legally.

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

New Illinois Traffic Laws For 2017

January is almost over and I thought it would be important to list the new traffic laws that went into effect in 2017:

  1. Scott’s Law, also referred to as the “move over” law, requires drivers to slow down or change lanes when driving by a stopped emergency vehicle. Beginning in 2017, the law also will include any vehicle on the side of the road with hazard lights flashing, according to a statement from the Illinois State Police.
  2. Speeding between 26 mph and 35 mph over the posted limit is a Class B misdemeanor. A class B misdemeanor in Illinois carries a maximum penalty of of 180 days in county jail, with fines up to $1500.
  3. Driving more than 35 mph over the speed limit is now considered a Class A misdemeanor. A Class A misdemeanor in Illinois is punishable up to a year in jail with fines up to $2,500.
  4. Those who have been convicted of driving without insurance could have their vehicle impounded if they are stopped by police within 12 months of the first citation.
  5. Fines will double for drivers caught trying to go around lowered railroad crossing gates. Under a new amendment to the Illinois Vehicle Code, drivers who disregard activated gates and warning lights at railroad crossings will face a fine of $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for subsequent offenses.

It must be pointed out that if someone who is charged with speeding over 25 mph over the speed limit there is a possibility the ticket could be amended to below 25 mph in order to avoid a misdemeanor conviction. This is not guaranteed. It could depend on the prosecutor and the judge handling the matter and whether the driver has a clean driving record. You will be required to hire an attorney if you are charged with a misdemeanor.

Drive safely and follow the rules of the road. Remember, 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 J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

Should Rideshare Companies Track Car Accident Statistics

I read an interesting article in the Red Eye this week, that investigated whether companies like Uber, Lyft and Taxi companies track the number of traffic accidents their drivers are involved in. You can read the article here.

The answer to the above question is no. Not only do rideshare and cab companies not track their driver’s car accidents, but neither does the state. All car accidents in Illinois that are reported to law enforcement must include an Illinois Traffic Crash Report. The investigating agency must fill out the report, which includes all of the driver information, whether medical treatment was required, whether traffic citations were issued and, most often, which driver was at fault for the traffic accident. The report also includes a box to check whether a driver was in a commercial vehicle (i.e. a tour bust or commercial van etc..) The report does not include a rideshare or taxi company classification. So, in theory, it is incredible difficult to to track the number of car accidents are caused by rideshare and taxi companies each year.

Should this change? Should the city of Chicago or the state alter the traffic crash reports to include a section regarding rideshares and taxi companies? I think the answer is yes. How do we know how safe these companies and their drivers are? I think it would be beneficial to start tracking these accident and classifying the type of drivers involved. This type of data would help local and state legislators determine if stricter driver qualifications are required for Uber and Lyft drivers. Should background checks and stricter driver testing be required? I don’t know the answer but we could learn a lot more if there were actual statistics taken on the number of car crashes occur every year.

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 J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

Wisconsin Woman Accused Of Using Facebook At Time Of Car Crash That Killed 3

The Chicago Tribune reported last month that the driver of who was involved in a car crash that killed three (3) children may have been chatting on Facebook with her phone right before the accident.

Cellphone records show that the driver was sending and receiving Facebook chat messages just before the crash, Pierce County investigators allege.  Authorities believe driver inattention contributed to the Dec. 12, 2013, car crash on Wisconsin Highway 35 near Prescott.

The woman’s SUV collided with a truck after she apparently lost control on a curve. The woman’s 11 year old daughter and two 5 year old nieces died from injuries in the car crash. The truck driver and his two (2) passengers were not injured in the accident.

I have not written about distracted driving in quite some time but this is still a pervasive problem in this country. Studies have shown that texting or emailing while driving can be just as dangerous as drinking and driving. A lack of focus for a second or two is all it takes for a car accident to occur. Texting and driving has been banned in Illinois but questions remain as to whether penalties a harsh enough. I believe if it is found that the texting was the cause of an accident, and there was an injured party, then there needs to be tougher penalties. I believe that texting and driving that causes an injury should be treated the same as a DUI, which is a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois. Class A misdemeanors in Illinois can be punishable up to a year in jail.

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

Illinois’ New Traffic Laws For 2015

2014 was a busy year for the Illinois Legislature and outgoing Governor Quinn. Many new laws were passed, including several new traffic and boating laws. Below is a recap of the relevant laws that went into effect on January 1, 2015.

Higher Tollway Speed Limits

Senate Bill 2015, clarified an earlier bill that raised the speed limit to 70 mph on some highways and interstates. This new bill (which was vetoed by Governor Quinn and later overridden by the Illinois House) raises the speed limit on tollways and expressways in and around the Chicago area and metro east St. Louis. The earlier bill did not include the Chicago or St. Louis areas.

Change In Traffic Stops

A new law sponsored by Senator Mike Noland, an Elgin Democrat, allows drivers who are ticketed for minor traffic stops like speeding, are no longer required to hand over their license as a bond assuring they will appear in Court. Now ticketed drivers can sign an agreement promising to pay the ticket or to appear in Court.

Second, there was a new bill outlawing ticket quota systems by police agencies.

New Boating Laws

Sen. Julie Morrison, a Deerfield Democrat, won approval for a new law that requires a boat that’s towing someone to display an orange flag.  This bill was passed in honor of the 2012 death of Libertyville 10-year-old Tony Borcia. Tony died after he fell off a tube being towed in the Chain O’ Lakes and was hit by another boater.

Another allows police to seize the craft of an intoxicated boater in some cases.

As always, I will continue to post and analyze any new proposed or passed Illinois traffic laws.

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