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Traffic Fatalities Declining in Most Statistical CategoriesThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently reported that 36,560 people were killed as a result of motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. in 2018. While any amount of traffic deaths is tragic, the 2018 number was actually a 2.4 percent decrease from 2017. Though not always steady, the number of motor vehicle fatalities reported each year has decreased by almost 18 percent since 1975. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is a third of what it was in 1975, which is more impressive when you consider that the annual VMT has more than doubled since then. In other words, Americans are driving more than ever and still decreasing the number of traffic deaths. There are other findings from the NHTSA report that are worth exploring.

Why the Decrease?

There are several explanations for why the rate of traffic fatalities has decreased in the last 40 years:

  • There have been effective public awareness campaigns about wearing safety belts and avoiding impaired driving.
  • Enforcing traffic laws, such as tickets for not wearing a safety belt, has discouraged the risky behavior.
  • Vehicles are better designed to avoid accidents and protect occupants in the event of a crash.
  • Emergency response systems and medical technology have improved, saving more lives.

Even with an overall decline in fatalities, there are clusters of years when the number of motor vehicle deaths has increased. For instance, the number of fatalities increased by 8.4 percent in 2015 and 6.5 percent in 2016. One possible explanation could be the rising use of handheld digital devices, which increased distracted driving.

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Why Is It Difficult to Resist Distracted Driving?Distracted driving is a hazard that does not seem to be going away, as people continue to be attached to their digital devices at all times. Diverting your attention from the road can cause an accident that results in injuries to yourself or someone else. According to one traffic accident study, nine people die and more than 1,000 people are injured every day in incidents involving distracted driving. As easy as it is to say that you should ignore everything other than your driving, drivers have a difficult time putting that into practice. Why do people allow themselves to be distracted while driving when they know it is dangerous? There are several possible explanations:

  1. The Fallacy of Multitasking: People have become used to constantly checking their phones while performing other tasks, such as working or watching television. You may think of this as multitasking because you are doing two activities at once. However, dividing your attention makes you less effective at both tasks. Looking away from your work for a few seconds to check a text message may do no harm because you are able to stop your work and start again. Looking away for a few seconds while you are driving is dangerous because your driving conditions could change at any moment.
  2. Nagging Alerts: You cannot help becoming momentarily distracted when you hear an alert for an incoming message or call. Answering that message or call will further distract you and increase the risk that you may be involved in an accident. Despite the danger, drivers are often overcome with an urge to know who is trying to contact them. You may be expecting an important call or to hear back from someone you have messaged. You may be worried that the call is about an emergency or an opportunity that will disappear if you do not respond immediately. If you think the message is that important, you should safely pull over in order to check it.
  3. False Safety of Hands-Free Devices: Laws against distracted driving exempt hands-free technology that allows you to answer calls and messages through voice commands or dashboard controls. However, drivers can become cognitively distracted without diverting their eyes or hands from their driving. When you are focusing on a conversation, you are not mentally ready to react to unexpected circumstances that may arise while driving. You are less able to foresee a potential hazard and slower to respond.

Contact a McHenry County Personal Injury Lawyer

Distracted driving can establish negligence in a personal injury case. Another driver may have caused the accident because they were distracted, but you could also share liability for the accident if you were distracted. A Crystal Lake, Illinois, personal injury attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can explain how distracted driving may affect the outcome of your case. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.

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How an Uninsured Motorist Affects Your Personal Injury CaseA personal injury case involving a vehicle accident will start with filing an insurance claim before you decide whether to pursue a personal injury lawsuit. While you have two years in Illinois to file a personal injury lawsuit, the insurance claim process will start almost immediately. If the other driver was at fault for your injuries, their insurance will likely be responsible for compensating you. However, what happens if the driver at fault does not have auto insurance? In Illinois, your uninsured motorist coverage will pay you instead.

How Does It Work?

Illinois requires auto insurance providers to include uninsured motorist coverage in all insurance plans, whereas other states may only require that insurers offer it. Your insurance will compensate you if you are injured in an accident with an uninsured driver, including if:

  • You were driving another vehicle;
  • You were a passenger in the uninsured driver’s vehicle; or
  • You were a cyclist or pedestrian.

Your insurance policy will also compensate you if the liable driver is underinsured. In that instance, your insurer would pay the difference between what the other insurance company pays you and your medical expenses, up to the limit of your policy. However, your insurance might not cover property damage caused by an uninsured party, depending on the type of policy you have.

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Compensation for Third Parties Injured During Police ChasesWhen a police officer pursues a driver who is attempting to flee, they do so knowing that the chase could put other drivers and pedestrians at risk of injury or death. If you are injured during a police chase, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against both parties. The party being chased is clearly liable if they directly caused your injury by colliding with you. They may still be liable if the police vehicle collided with you because they were the proximate cause of the chase. It is more difficult to prove that a police officer is liable for your injury. State law grants tort immunity to police officers for most actions in the line of duty. If you file a personal injury lawsuit against a police department, it will likely ask the court for summary judgment to dismiss the lawsuit. However, you should contest a summary judgment if the police officer’s actions were reckless.

Police Policy

Police departments have policies about when officers should initiate and terminate a high-speed chase. For instance, the city of Chicago’s policy states that officers need to balance the necessity of catching a fleeing party against the danger it could create for bystanders. Officers must consider factors such as whether:

  • They are in an area with a high volume of vehicles or pedestrians;
  • The chase requires driving at a speed that is unsafe for the area;
  • The weather or road conditions will make the pursuit more dangerous;
  • The suspect has already caused property damage; or
  • The suspect has been identified, allowing the officer to apprehend them later.

Chicago’s policy prohibits officers from chasing a subject who is suspected of a non-hazardous traffic offense. Violating these policies does not make a police department automatically liable for personal injuries, but it is evidence in determining whether the officer was willfully or wantonly reckless.

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The Dangers of Teenage Driving and How to Protect ThemThe summer is a time of year when many teens are learning how to drive and getting their driver’s license. While teens may be excited by this life development, parents have reason to be concerned about their safety. Drivers ages 16 to 19 are more likely to be in a vehicle accident than any other age group in the U.S. In 2016, more than 2,400 teens in the U.S. were killed in motor vehicle accidents and almost 300,000 were treated for personal injuries. As a parent, you need to be aware of the dangers that teenage drivers face and how you can protect them.

Dangers

The main reason that teenage drivers are involved in more accidents is the most obvious reason: they lack driving experience. Beyond the technical aspects of operating a vehicle, learning to drive is about making quick judgment calls. Teen drivers are more likely to:

  • Drive at speeds that are unsafe for the conditions;
  • Misjudge how they need to react to a hazard;
  • Become distracted by digital devices or friends in the vehicle; and
  • Forget to wear their seatbelts.

Teens may also make poor decisions before they start driving, such as drinking alcohol. Illinois has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving. A teen driver with any amount of alcohol in their system is breaking the law. Even if a teen’s blood alcohol concentration is below the legal limit for an adult, they may not be able to drive safely with that level of intoxication.

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