Study: Interlock Devices For First Time DUI Offenders Saves Lives

The Washington Post published an article this month about a study performed by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, which revealed that traffic fatalities have declined by 7 percent in states that mandate ignition interlocks for first-time drunken-driving offenders.

Interlock devices are installed in vehicles and require drivers to blow into them before the car’s ignition will start the engine. Currently, 22 states require interlock devices for first time DUI offenders. Other states require them for repeat offenders or those with a particularly high blood alcohol content. Some states let the judge decide whether an interlock is appropriate.

The study tracked fatalities for about five years before states began passing interlock laws in the late 1980s through 2013, when all states required them under some circumstances.  The Hopkins study suggested that even those with no previous DUI convictions would think twice about driving under the influence if faced with the prospect that a first-time offense would require them to use an interlock. It says partial laws that don’t mandate the devices for all offenders are less effective. More than a third of the 35,092 fatal car crashes in 2015 involved a driver who had been drinking; 29 percent of them were legally drunk and 20 percent had a blood alcohol content almost twice the legal limit or higher.

I think it is safe to conclude that the states that require interlock devices for first time offenders is saving lives. Drivers are more hesitant to even attempt to drive after drinking if they know they have to face the interlock. I think it would be important to take these findings and perform studies that involve distracted drivers. Wouldn’t you agree that drivers would be more hesitant to pick up their phones while driving if they knew there were very stiff penalties if they were caught texting and driving or they cause car accident while using their cell phone. I think this study is important and we could have predicted the outcome. Now it’s time to use this study into other areas of traffic law, including distracted drivers.

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.

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.

NHTSA: Traffic Fatalities Up 8% In 2016

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) announced some unfortunate news in a press release last week that traffic fatalities were up 8% last year from the year before for the first nine months of each year. The agency’s statistical projection found an estimated 27,875 people died in vehicle accidents during that time in 2016, while 25,808 fatalities were reported for that same period in 2015. Also, the fatality rate for 2016’s first nine months increased to 1.15 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. That represents an increase from 1.10 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled during the first nine months of 2015. The agency noted it relied on the same methodology used to generate the estimates for the first nine months of 2016 as it did to record the fatalities for 2015.

The various articles I have read don’t seem to point any specific reason why. The discouraging news is that these numbers are coming off a year where traffic deaths increased 7% in 2015 over 2014. Experts believe the increased travel is mostly a result of an improved economy and low gas prices. But NHTSA’s data experts said increased travel and a better economy alone can’t explain the rise in deaths. “We still have to figure out what is underlying those lives lost,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said. “If it was simple, we would already know that.”

The increase in deaths is especially concerning because it has happened at time when cars are safer than ever. Nearly all new cars and light trucks now have electronic stability control and rearview cameras, for example. Automakers are also beginning to equip more cars with sophisticated safety technology like adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency-braking and blind-spot monitoring.

So what is the answer? The NHTSA isn’t giving us any plausible explanation. My own theory is that people continue to use their phones when driving. They continue to text and not take advantage of hands-free technology. I think this will continue to be the case as long as the penalties for texting and driving are weak. In my opinion, if an injury occurs from an accident where texting and driving was the cause, then the case needs to be treated like a DUI. At the very least the driver needs to be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. Without significant repercussions, drivers will not be deterred from typing on their phones while driving. This is the only explanation I can come up with as to why traffic fatalities have continued to rise the last two years.

If you or someone you love has been 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.


Illinois Supreme Court Clarifies Homeowner’s Liability With Snow And Ice Removal

It’s winter in Chicago and we have already seen quite a bit of snow. Recently I’ve seen multiple news posts from the Tribune and DNA Info reminding home and business owners of the ordinance the city council passed last year increasing fines for failing to shovel their sidewalks. The updated ordinance increased fines for failure to clear sidewalks from range of $50-$500. It also increases the fine for obstructing the public way with shoveled or plowed snow from $25-$100 to $50-$500. The ordinance requires that daytime snowfall be cleared by 10 p.m. and overnight snowfall to be cleared by 10 a.m. Warnings will be issued before tickets are given. The word from the city hall law department  was that the increased fines are aimed at the “repeat, flagrant offender.”

This raises questions for many business and homeowners as to what their civil liability would be if they do comply and shovel their walk but someone still slips and injures themselves. In other words, what if the homeowner shoveled their walk from a natural accumulation of snow but that they were accused of doing a negligent job?

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled on a recent case that clarified the 1979 Snow and Ice Removal Act,745 ILCS 75/1. In a recent case, Murphy-Hylton v. Lieberman Management Services, Inc., a suburban woman sued her condominium association and property management company for serious injuries from a slip and fall on ice.  In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Mary Jane Theis, The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court’s judgment and sent the case back to the trial court. “The Snow and Ice Removal Act provides immunity to residential property owners from claims of liability for injuries allegedly caused by icy sidewalks that result from negligent snow and ice removal efforts, but it does not extend to immunize them from claims of liability for injuries allegedly caused by icy sidewalks that result from an otherwise negligent failure to maintain the premises.”

The Court has clarified what the law has always been. If a homeowner shovels her walk from a natural accumulation of snow or ice fall, they cannot be held liable in civil court for injuries resulting from said shoveling. (i.e. if the plaintiff sues that the homeowner did a negligent job of shoveling the walk). Where a homeowner can be liable is if the ice is a result of a leaky spout or runoff that is not a result of a natural accumulation. Those were the alleged facts in the above Murphy-Hylton case.

The lesson here is that if you are a homeowner in the city, you definitely want to remove snow and ice from your sidewalk in order to avoid a fine. But, civil liability will most likely be avoided if you attempt to clear the snow and someone slips and falls anyway. I am in know way advocating to home and business owners to lazily shovel their walks. I am just trying to report what our Supreme Court clarified in this recent court case along with the ramifications could be from the city if you avoid to remove the snow and ice.

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

$12 Million Donation To Fund Separate Bike and Pedestrian Paths On Chicago’s Lake Front

For once, some encouraging news came out recently from the City of Chicago. At the end of the year the city was announced the local hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, through urging from mayor Rahm Emanuel, will donate $12 million to the city to construct separated bicycle and pedestrian pathways on Chicago congested lakefront. The mayor’s office said in a statement the gift will help stretch the mayor’s earlier plan for creating the double paths on the North and South sides, between Fullerton and Ohio streets and 31st and 51st streets, along the whole lakefront. The work is already partially done and will be completed by 2018.

This is incredible news to thousand who bike and run up and down the pathway during Chicago’s warmer months. Anyone, who has spent time on the lakefront on a busy day can attest to how crowded it can be, and at times very dangerous. You can read here about a particularly nasty collision that took place in 2014.  As I have written in the past on this blog, there have been some dangerous collisions between bicyclists and runners on the lakefront. This new plan should hopefully provide enough space for everyone to safely enjoy that part of the city.

Interestingly though, the Chicago Tribune published an article last week that correctly points out that certain sections of construction plan may not be so easy. Specifically at areas like Belmont Harbor and Oak Street Beach, which are already very narrow stretches of pathway. It is something engineer and architects will have to study, and unfortunately may eat up some green space.

Regardless, as someone who frequents the lakefront path and someone who represents bicycle accident and pedestrian accident victims, I am incredibly encouraged by this news. I am also thankful to the generous donor. I think this will make the lakefront safer and more enjoyable for everyone.

If you or someone you love has 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 at 312-614-1076.