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Types of Car Accidents

There are many different types of car wrecks. It may be helpful for you to understand more about the type of accident that has injured you or a loved one. You can get a better understanding of what may have caused the accident, the party who should be held responsible and what you may possibly recover for your losses.

Please review the information we have provided in this section and contact an experienced car crash attorney from our firm to discuss the specific aspects of your case.

Distracted Driving

“Distracted driving” occurs when you allow anything to take your attention away from safely operating your car. This behavior poses a major threat on roads in Chicago and across Illinois.

Texting and talking on a cell phone while driving are common distractions. New Illinois laws address these risks. However, these are not the only distractions that cause accidents.

This is why you need to work with an experienced lawyer after you or a loved one is injured in an auto accident. The attorney should know how to thoroughly investigate your crash and determine whether distracted driving played a role.

Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., offers that extensive background. We can get to work on your case right away. Simply contact us today to get started with a free consultation.

What Is Distracted Driving?

Driving is complex. It requires complete focus. When distractions get in the way, the consequences can be devastating. Accidents, injuries and deaths can (and often do) result.

For instance, a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) study found that reaching for a cell phone, dialing and texting while driving raises the risk of getting into a crash by three times.

If you look down at your phone to send or read a text message for an average of 4.6 seconds while traveling at 55 mph – a common speed on Chicago roads – you could go the length of an entire football field without your eyes on the road, another VTTI study found.

A major concern involves teens who text or talk on a phone while driving. In a recent survey of U.S. teens, 40 percent admitted to being in a car when the driver recklessly used a cell phone.

Other types of dangerous distractions include:

  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking with passengers
  • Brushing/combing hair and/or putting on makeup
  • Reading books and maps
  • Using navigation systems
  • Watching videos
  • Tuning radios, CD players or MP3 players

Chicago and Illinois: Cracking Down on Distracted Driving

In response to the threat of distracted driving, as of January 1, 2014, Illinois law now bans:

  • Text messaging, e-mailing or using the Internet while driving
  • Using a hand-held electronic communication device while driving
  • Using cell phones, hand-held or hands-free, in school zones and highway work zones
  • Driving while using a wireless phone, hand-held or hands-free, if you are age 18 or younger.

What Can You Do If You Are Injured by a Distracted Driver?

Despite the law, distracted driving continues. If you or a loved one was harmed by a distracted driver, that driver should fully compensate you for all of your losses. (If the driver was working at the time, then his or her employer could be liable as well.)

An investigation into your crash can reveal evidence of distracted driving. This evidence could include:

  • Cell phone records
  • Texting records (and the actual text messages)
  • Witness statements (including passengers and bystanders)
  • Credit card or debit card receipts (showing the driver was eating while driving)

An accident reconstruction expert’s analysis of the crash scene itself can also determine whether a driver was distracted. For instance, a lack of brake marks (along with evidence that a driver was texting at the time of the crash) can establish that the driver was distracted.

Drowsy Driving

In 2011, there were 281,788 traffic accidents in Illinois, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. These accidents caused 918 deaths and 84,172 injuries as well as a combined $5.5 billion cost. Tragically, many of these accidents occurred as a result of preventable driver behaviors such as drowsy (or fatigued) driving.

Drowsy driving is incredibly dangerous. A person who is nodding off behind the wheel presents a major risk to himself and to others. No law can specifically prohibit drowsy driving. However, a driver who causes an accident while fatigued can still be held legally responsible and made to pay damages to victims injured in the crash.

Drowsy Driving Accident Dangers

According to the National Sleep Foundation, drowsy driving has become a major cause of accidents in the U.S. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates indicate that:

  • Driver fatigue causes an estimated 100,000 police-reported crashes each year.
  • On average, there are 1,550 deaths each year in the U.S. due to drowsy driving.
  • Each year, 71,000 people are injured each year as a result of drowsy driving.
  • Drowsy driving crashes cause an estimated $12.5 billion in losses in the U.S.

Drowsy driving or driving while fatigued is likely to cause accidents because drivers may:

  • Drift into the wrong lane
  • Cross a double yellow line or veer onto the wrong side of a divided highway
  • Crash into the vehicle in front of them
  • Fail to take their foot off the gas and come to a sudden stop
  • Fail to respond quickly enough due to slowed reflexes caused by fatigue.

With so many potential problems caused by someone nodding off or driving while impaired by fatigue, it should come as no surprise that drowsy driving crashes happen every day.

Unfortunately, drowsy driving crashes also tend to be very dangerous. In fact, according to an NHTSA report called “Drowsy Driving and Automobile Crashes,” crashes where a driver falls asleep or is nodding off are likely to cause serious injuries or even fatalities.

Drowsy driving is so dangerous because drivers may not brake or swerve to avoid a collision. That increases the chances of a head-on crash. Also, the crashes tend to occur at high speeds since the fatigued driver doesn’t react and slow down.

Due to these factors, and the delayed reaction time caused by fatigue, the NHTSA report indicates that drowsy driving results in more injuries and fatalities than other types of non-alcohol-related and non-fatigue-related crashes.

Who is at Risk for Drowsy Driving Accidents?

Despite the clear dangers of driving while fatigued, many people make the choice to drive when they are tired. In fact, according to Drowsy Driving.org, a 2005 Sleep in America study revealed that 68 percent of adult drivers polled had driven while tired in the prior year. Thirty-seven percent of the drivers who admitted to driving while fatigued reported that they had actually fallen asleep while they were driving, and 13 percent of those who had nodded off said they did so at least once every month.

Drowsy driving is something that the majority of adults seem to do at least occasionally. Certain individuals, however, may be more likely to drive when they are tired or may be at the greatest risk of becoming involved in a drowsy driving crash. According to the NHTSA report, those who may be most at risk of a drowsy driving crash include:

  • Young drivers under age 30 (especially young men) – The NHTSA reported on a 1995 study showing that drivers under 30 were involved in almost two-thirds of all drowsy driving accidents although they only represented a quarter of licensed drivers. The NHTSA data also indicated more young men then women drove drowsy. A more recent report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety also found that the young were at great risk. In their study, 1 in 7 drivers ages 16-24 admitted they had nodded off while driving at least once in the prior year, as compared to 1 in 10 of all drivers surveyed.
  • Shift workers (especially older shift workers) – The NHTSA cited a 1992 study indicating that night-shift workers got 1.5 fewer hours of sleep in each 24-hour period than day workers. Those individuals working the night shift who had to sleep during the day were at the greatest risk of a fatigued driving accident.
  • Those with untreated sleep conditions including sleep apnea and narcolepsy – While the NHTSA indicates that these conditions could put a driver at a greater risk of a fatigued driving crash, they aren’t invariably linked with impaired driving ability.
  • Individuals suffering from chronic or acute sleep loss – The NHTSA indicated that almost half of adults responding to a Gallup survey said they had at least some sleep problems. One in 10 had frequent sleep difficulties.

Those who use medications with a sedating effect, including benzodiazepine anxiolytics, sedating antihistamines and long-acting hypnotics, also present a risk of crashes.

Unfortunately, when teens, shift workers or others make the choice to drive even if they are too tired (or when they continue driving despite nodding off or having difficulty concentrating), their decision can affect other drivers as well. Any driver, therefore, is at risk of a fatigued driving accident because of someone else on the road.

Drivers should be on the lookout for anyone exhibiting potential signs of fatigued driving and should also be aware of the time when drowsy driving crashes are most likely to occur. According to the NHTSA, the times when these accidents are most likely include late nights, early mornings or mid-afternoon, especially when the driver is alone in the car.

Investigating Drowsy Driving Accidents

Unlike with drunk driving, there is no clear and easy test to determine when or if a driver was driving while fatigued at the time of a crash. There are also no clear laws specifically banning drowsy driving. Therefore, drowsy driving accidents can become legally complex.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a drowsy driving crash, you can recover compensation from the driver who hurt you if he was considered to be negligent in a way that led to your injury. Driving while fatigued can be a form of negligent or reckless behavior, especially if no reasonable average driver would have made the choice to drive in that situation.

The burden, however, is on the injured victim to prove that the other driver was negligent in driving while drowsy. Drowsy driving cases, therefore, need to be investigated carefully.

Drowsy driving accidents can be investigated by law enforcement. Those who wish to take legal action against the fatigued driver can also contact accident reconstruction experts and can look for evidence including:

  • Failure to sleep
  • Witness testimony of erratic behavior such as veering across lanes or off the road
  • An admission by the drowsy driver that he was fatigued or falling asleep
  • Skid marks or other evidence from the accident scene that can indicate a lack of attempt to swerve or stop.

Building a drowsy driving case and getting the evidence you need can be complicated, so it is crucial to have legal assistance.

Drugged Driving

Drugged driving involves the use of illegal (or illicit) and legal (prescription or over-the-counter) drugs. It presents a serious threat to the safety of Chicago motorists. Driving under the influence of any drug that acts on the brain could impair one’s motor skills, reaction time and judgment, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says. Drugged driving puts not only the driver at risk but also passengers, pedestrians and others who share the road.

The 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) said an estimated 10.5 million people reported driving under the influence of illegal drugs during the year prior to the survey. The Illinois State Police say that each year in Illinois, hundreds of people die needlessly as the result of drinking or drugged driving. Hundreds more in our state are seriously injured or permanently disabled. Millions of dollars in property damage occur.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found in a 2009 study that, among fatally injured drivers, 18 percent tested positive for at least one drug (e.g., illicit, prescription, or over-the-counter). That marked an increase from 13 percent in 2005. The NHTSA’s 2007 National Roadside Survey found that more than 16 percent of weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for illegal, prescription or over-the-counter medications. More than 11 percent tested positive for illicit drugs.

Drugs Impair a Driver’s Ability to Operate a Vehicle

The NIDA says that marijuana is the most prevalent illegal drug detected in impaired drivers, fatally injured drivers and motor vehicle crash victims. Other drugs detected in the systems of drugged drivers include benzodiazepines, cocaine, opiates and amphetamines.

THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, adversely affects areas of the brain that control the body’s movements, balance, coordination, memory and judgment and sensations. Marijuana can negatively affect a driver’s attentiveness, perception of time and speed and ability to draw on information obtained from past experiences, the NIDA says.

Many medications can impair driving ability because of how they act on systems in the brain. Anti-anxiety medications (e.g., Xanax, Paxil, Buspar, et al.) might decrease a driver’s alertness and slow reaction time. Stimulants prescribed for neurological disorders like ADHD, asthma or obesity may make a driver overly aggressive.

In fact, the NIDA points out, many prescriptions warn the drug’s user not to operate machinery – including motor vehicles – for a specified period of time after taking a dosage.

The Challenge of Discovering Drugged Driving

There is no standard measurement for drugged driving, such as the blood-alcohol content (BAC) test used to measure impairment in drunk drivers. Yet, studies show that drugs are a factor that can cause impairment even more often than alcohol.

Drugs do not appear in the system the same way alcohol does. Alcohol burns off relatively quickly, but some drugs can remain in the body for days or weeks after the initial ingestion and impairment. So, it is more difficult to get an accurate reading of the amount of drugs in a driver’s system and how they affect his or her motor abilities and/or cognition.

Some states, including Illinois, have adopted “per se” laws. These laws make it illegal to operate a motor vehicle if there is any detectable level of a prohibited drug, or its metabolites, in the driver’s blood.

Still, there is no agreed-upon legal limit to point to as a definitive indicator of whether illicit drugs were the cause of an accident.

Drunk Driving Accidents

In 2009, Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., obtained a $33.2 million personal injury verdict on behalf of a drunk driving accident victim. It remains the largest verdict in Lake County history.

Based on our experience in this and the many other drunk driving accident cases our firm has handled, we have come to understand the horrible impact these crashes can have on victims and their families. We are passionate about seeking justice for them.

If you believe that a driver who was impaired by alcohol caused your crash, contact our firm to speak with a lawyer about your case. We serve clients throughout Chicago and Illinois.

We can help you to understand your legal rights and your options, and we can discuss the steps we can take on your behalf. We are available to provide immediate assistance.

Who Can Be Held Responsible for a Drunk Driving Crash?

Under Illinois law, a driver is deemed to be too impaired to drive if his or her blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is at 0.08 percent or higher. Additionally, it is illegal in Illinois for anyone under age 21 to drive with any trace of alcohol in their system.

If a driver violates either of these laws and causes a crash, he or she can be considered “negligent per se.” In other words, the driver’s violation of the law establishes that the driver is at fault.

The driver can, in turn, be held responsible for any losses the driver causes others to suffer in a crash. This includes the harm caused to other motorists, pedestrians or his or her own passengers.

However, studies show that a driver with a BAC lower than 0.08 can still be dangerous to others on the road. For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says drivers typically exhibit impaired judgment, coordination and alertness with a BAC of 0.05 percent.

So, in some cases, a driver’s liability can be established by showing how his or her alcohol consumption led to careless driving, such as swerving or crossing the center line.

Can Other Parties Be Held Liable In A Drunk Driving Crash?

The drunk driver isn’t the only party who may be held responsible for a drunk driving crash.

For instance, under Illinois’s dram shop law, you may be able to sue the bar, restaurant or store that served alcohol to the intoxicated driver who caused your crash.

However, your recovery from this establishment would be limited by a “statutory cap.” Also, you would need to file your claim within one year from the date of the accident. (Typically, you would have two years from the date of the crash to bring a claim under Illinois law.)

In some cases, you may also be able to sue anyone who provides alcohol to a minor (a person under age 21) who causes your car crash. These are commonly called “social host liability” cases.

Finally, if the drunk driver who harmed you or a loved one was working at the time of the crash, the driver’s employer could also face liability.

Head-on Collisions

Head-on accidents occur when two drivers collide straight on from the front. They are among the most dangerous types of crashes. This is because this type of collision doubles the force, so that if each car is traveling at 40 mph, this is the equivalent of a crash at 80 mph. If you were the victim of a head-on collision through no fault of your own, or if you have lost a loved one to one of these crashes, you should contact a lawyer. You need to make sure your rights are fully protected, including your right to seek compensation for the harm you have suffered. Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., can help you. We have a long record of working with injured victims and their families in Chicago and throughout Illinois.

How Do Head-on Accidents Occur?

Head-on accidents are commonly called “lane-departure” or “road-departure” accidents. A number of different types of behaviors can cause drivers to leave their lanes and veer into oncoming traffic. Some of the top causes of these accidents include:

  • Losing control around a curve – Transportation.org estimates that 23 percent of fatal head-on car wrecks happen when a driver takes a curve too fast or otherwise loses control of the vehicle on a curve.
  • Unsafe passing – According to Transportation.org, 4.2 percent of fatal head-on crashes occur when a driver tries to pass on an undivided two-lane roadway.
  • Distracted driving – Drivers who aren’t paying attention because they are focused on their cell phones or other distractions can swerve or drift out of their lanes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 18 percent of all injury-producing traffic accidents in 2010 occurred as a result of a distracted driver. The NHTSA also says that drivers who are using a hand-held device is between four and 23 times as likely to get into a crash, depending upon whether they are talking or texting.
  • Drowsy driving – A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that 4.2 percent of more than 147,000 surveyed drivers had fallen asleep behind the wheel at least once in the prior 30 days. A dozing driver can easily cross into oncoming traffic.
  • Drunk driving – According to the 2013 DUI Fact Book, there were 323 drunk driving fatalities in 2011 in Illinois. Drunk driving crashes made up 35 percent of all fatal accidents over the course of the year. Drunk drivers frequently cross into the wrong lane of traffic as they swerve or lose control of their vehicles.

While head-on accidents can happen any time that drivers engage in these and other dangerous behaviors, these types of collisions are much more likely to occur on rural roads. In fact, Transportation.org reports that 75 percent of all head-on crashes occur on rural roads, where undivided two-lane roadways are commonly found. About 68 percent of deadly head-on accidents occur while the drivers are going straight, Transportion.org says.

Types of Injuries in Head-on Crashes

Head-on accidents account for approximately two percent of all vehicle accidents in the U.S., but they cause 10 percent of the fatalities. Unfortunately, head-on accidents are more likely to be deadly for many different reasons, including the combined force of the vehicles’ impact. Head-on accidents are also more likely to be deadly because the drivers are often unable to engage in customary crash-avoidance behavior. For example, a drunk or sleeping driver who crosses into another lane will not be able to slow down, slam on the brakes or swerve to avoid a head-on crash. The cars are not only more likely to hit head-on, but they are also more likely to hit at high speeds. For all of these reasons, the driver is likely to suffer serious injury as a result of the crash. Some of the different types of injuries that drivers may experience after a head-on accident include:

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI) / brain damage
  • Spinal injuries causing paraplegia or quadriplegia
  • Broken bones, especially facial bones
  • Neck injury
  • Soft tissue damage
  • Air bag injuries
  • Injuries to the knees, hips or legs
  • Amputation.

The more serious your injury, the greater the amount of compensation you should recover from the driver who caused the crash. The driver who is responsible for causing your head-on accident – or rather, the driver’s insurance company – should cover your medical costs, including any future or ongoing medical care that you will need. You should also be compensated for lost income if you have to miss work or take sick/vacation days and for lost future income if your injuries leave you unable to work. Pain and suffering and emotional distress damages are also required for serious injury cases. Alternatively, if the accident resulted in death, then the family members of the victim can take legal action in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Highway Construction Accidents

As the number of vehicles traveling across Illinois roads increases, so does the volume of highway construction projects drivers encounter along the way. While highway maintenance and construction is essential, these sites can often create road hazards that lead to dangerous accidents – injuring or even killing both drivers and construction workers.

At Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., our attorneys have spent the past 25 years representing those injured in motor vehicle accidents – and we know that many accidents involving highway construction projects simply shouldn’t happen. If you’ve been involved in a highway construction site accident, call us today at 312-372-1227 for a free, no obligation consultation.

What causes highway construction accidents? While any worksite can be dangerous, highway construction projects are particularly dangerous environments due to several different factors:

  • Highway construction projects may be contracted out to independent construction companies that fail to meet state safety regulations.
  • Construction sites share space with vehicles traveling at high speeds – which means that even the slightest misplacement of equipment or road markers can create a road hazard.
  • Weather conditions that make driving more difficult can turn a construction site into an accident site when construction companies fail to anticipate or understand the effect of weather on driving conditions.
  • Drivers who fail to observe traffic safety, such as those engaged in speeding, drunk driving or simply not paying attention, can quickly collide with construction site equipment and cause a serious accident.
  • Road hazards such as sharp curves or dips may not be marked, and drivers may not be able to slow down or stop suddenly when they come upon a construction site unexpectedly.
  • Lack of adequate signage may not provide drivers with enough time to adjust their speed as they approach a construction site.

Construction companies, independent contractors and others involved in highway construction have a duty to the public to complete their construction projects in a timely manner without endangering drivers. At Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., our attorneys understand how to investigate a highway construction accident scene properly to determine what went wrong – and who should be held accountable. We know the relevant state safety laws and we’ll review the scene carefully to assess whether any regulatory violations occurred. Our legal team will examine other factors involved in your accident, such as defective construction equipment or inadequate warning signs, to assign liability to the party responsible for your injuries.

We know that if you have been injured in a highway construction accident, you may be facing serious medical challenges that you shouldn’t have to handle on your own. Whether your accident was caused by the negligence of a construction worker, the manufacturer of faulty construction equipment or a contractor’s failure to maintain proper site safety standards, you deserve answers and compensation for your injuries.

Intersection Accidents

When two or more cars come together at an intersection, the potential for an accident is high if any one driver fails to follow safety rules. Unfortunately, there are many possible things that can go wrong. The National Highway Traffic Safety Institute estimates that around 40 percent of all 2008 car crashes in the U.S. happened at an intersection. The Illinois Department of Transportation also indicates that 26.3 percent of the 835 fatal accidents in the state occurred at an intersection during 2011. The 835 fatal accidents resulted in a total of 918 deaths.

When a driver causes a crash because he doesn’t follow the rules or behave in a reasonably prudent way at an intersection, it is very important that he or she be held accountable. The driver responsible for the crash could be sued and made to pay compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress and other damages.

Common Causes of Intersection Accidents

Intersection accidents can happen at any location where cars come together. However, they are especially likely to occur on the busy urban streets of Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois where there is a lot of traffic and where drivers may be impatient and aggressive in trying to make it through the intersection.

Specific bad behavior on the part of drivers at intersections is also likely to cause or contribute to a crash. The NHTSA has identified certain common causes of intersection crashes, all of which relate to at least one driver’s failure to be reasonably prudent.

These common crash causes include:

  • Inadequate observation – In 44.1 percent of intersection accidents caused by drivers, the crash occurs due to a failure to properly survey and observe the status of the traffic in the intersection.
  • Incorrect assumptions – In 8.4 percent of intersection accidents caused by drivers, the accident occurred because a driver made the wrong guess about what another driver was going to do.
  • Turns despite obstructed views – In 7.8 percent of intersection accidents caused by drivers, the car wreck occurred because a driver made a turn without first confirming that the intersection was clear.
  • Illegal actions – In 6.8 percent of intersection accidents that a driver caused, the driver broke driving laws by doing actions such as running a red light, turning from the incorrect lane or making an illegal U-turn.
  • Driver distraction – In 5.7 percent of intersection accidents that a driver caused, the driver was distracted. In another 3.4 percent of cases, the driver was inattentive. Cell phones, grooming, entering directions into a GPS, reading a map, reaching for something in the car, playing with the internal car controls or eating while driving are all potential causes of a distracted driving wreck.
  • Driver misjudgment – In 5.5 percent of intersection accidents that a driver caused, the driver misjudged the speed of another driver or misjudged the amount of time he had to drive or turn.

These were the top contributing driver-related behaviors that led to intersection accidents. Unfortunately, the NHTSA indicates that a full 96 percent of intersection accidents result from a bad decision made by one or more drivers. This means that all of these accidents could potentially have been prevented by a more careful driver. The remaining 4 percent of crashes occurred due to intersection design, malfunctions with the traffic lights or signals or problems with one or more vehicles.

Interstate Accidents

Chicago has seven major interstates and numerous smaller interstates and roads that are traveled by locals and out-of-towners alike. While state law currently caps the speed limit on these interstates at 65 mph or less, efforts are underway to increase the limit to 70 mph to relieve congestion on our roads. Unfortunately, even the current high speeds on the interstate result in too many accidents. These crashes can be more serious than accidents on other roads. They are also more likely to be multi-car pileups involving many drivers. At Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., we realize how terrifying it can be to experience one of these accidents or to suffer the unimaginable loss of a loved one because of such a crash. We are passionate about helping victims and their families recover compensation for the harm they have suffered. If you or a loved one was injured in an interstate accident, you have certain legal rights. Allow a lawyer from our firm to explain those rights and take action on your behalf. Our experienced attorneys handle cases throughout Chicago and Illinois, including those involving large trucks, passenger buses, multi-car pileups and out-of-state drivers.

A Closer Look at Chicago Interstates

There are several major interstates located within the Chicago area, each of which is known by multiple names. The interstates include:

  • I-190 (Kennedy Expressway)
  • I-290 (Eisenhower Expressway)
  • I-294 (Tri-State Tollway)
  • I-355 (Veterans Memorial Tollway)
  • I-55 (Stevenson Expressway)
  • I-80 (Kingery Expressway and Tri-State Tollway)
  • I-88 (Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway)
  • I-90 (Chicago Skyway, Dan Ryan Expressway, Kennedy Expressway, Jane Addams Memorial Tollway)
  • I-94 (runs through the Kingery Expressway, Bishop Ford Memorial Freeway, Dan Ryan Expressway, Kennedy Expressway, Edens Expressway, Edens Expressway Spur and the Tri-State Tollway).

These interstates connect drivers who are traveling within Chicago and those who are traveling through the city to neighboring cities and states. For example, the Kennedy Expressway runs from O’Hare International Airport to downtown, going east and south. The Chicago Skyway, or Interstate 90, exits off of the Dan Ryan Expressway near 66th Street and then heads southeast in the direction of Indiana. Interstate 94, on the other hand, is a primary highway that leads from Indiana to Illinois to Wisconsin. These interstates are well-traveled roadways, especially at the circle interchange where the Dan Ryan, the Eisenhower and the Kennedy Expressways all converge in a circular area with many ramps and extensive traffic congestion. Unfortunately, the high speeds, extensive traffic and presence of out-of-state drivers who may not be familiar with the interstates all combine to create situations in which many accidents occur.

Top Causes of Interstate Accidents

Some of the factors that increase the accident risk include:

  • Speeding drivers – According to the AAA Foundation’s 2012 Traffic Safety Culture Index, 49.3 percent of drivers throughout the U.S. admitted to driving 15 mph over the freeway speed limit in the prior month.
  • Distracted drivers – According to Distraction.gov, a driver who sends a text message looks away from the road for 4.6 seconds. If the driver is on an interstate traveling at 65 miles per hour or faster, the driver would travel more than the length of a football field while looking at his or her phone.
  • Drowsy drivers – Interstate driving can be monotonous and drivers can start to zone out when they are tired, especially if they are using cruise control and not actively stopping and going at traffic lights.
  • Aggressive drivers – Drivers on interstates may be eager to get where they are going and can engage in dangerous behaviors, such as passing on the inside or weaving in and out of cars.
  • Tailgating drivers – When a driver gets too close to the vehicle in front, the high speeds on interstates can make it very difficult for the driver to stop. This can cause a rear-end accident, which can have a chain reaction effect.

These are just some of the many types of driver behavior that can occur on interstates and lead to accidents. While these types of driver behavior can happen anywhere, when they occur on expressways, the risks are exacerbated by both speed and congestion.

Interstate Accident Dangers

Regardless of its cause, an interstate accident generally has very serious consequences. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, vehicle occupants are 26 times more likely to be killed in crashes on rural interstate highways that have high speeds than they are on interstate highways that have lower speed limits. Some of the risks that drivers on interstates face include:

  • Multi-car pileups – Often, drivers are unable to stop their vehicles or swerve out of the way when they come upon an accident on an interstate because of the high speeds and traffic congestion. This can increase the chances of a multi-vehicle accident occurring.
  • Truck accidents – Large trucks routinely travel on interstates as they cross through the Chicago area. Large trucks are often involved in very serious accidents due to their size. Trucks may also cause different types of accidents than cars, including underride accidents and jackknife accidents.
  • Bus accidents – Many tour buses travel through Chicago. When these buses are involved in an accident, passengers on the bus and other drivers can be hurt.
  • High speed crashes – Cars traveling at high speeds will collide with more force than cars traveling at lower speeds. This means that a driver who is in an interstate accident is far more likely to be seriously injured or killed.

Rear-End Accidents

Rear-end accidents are the most frequent type of car wreck. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that rear-end collisions account for about 29 percent of all motor vehicle accidents. The majority of rear-end accidents happen because the driver in the following car was distracted, the NHTSA adds.

Rear-end collisions are often connected to whiplash, an injury caused when the head and neck are abruptly extended and then snapped back in a jerking motion. Rear-end accidents can also kill car occupants. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) says the more than 79,600 rear-end collisions in 2011 resulted in 48 deaths and nearly 25,000 personal injuries.

A person injured in a rear-end crash caused by another driver may be able to recover money for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other losses. The families of those killed in rear-end accidents have a right to seek compensation for their losses, too. It’s important to contact an attorney serving rear-end accident victims in Chicago and Illinois.

Rear-End Accidents and Distracted Driving in Illinois

Rear-end accidents not only cause injuries and deaths but property damage as well. In fact, the greatest number of property damage crashes in 2011, or 28.3 percent of total crashes, involved rear-end collisions, IDOT says.

In 2007, the NHTSA released a 156-page analysis of rear-end crashes and near-crashes. The federal agency found that about 87 percent of rear-end accidents involve some form or degree of distracted driving on the part of the at-fault driver. Cell phone use while driving was one of the top distracted-driving activities involved in these accidents.

Cell phone use of any kind by novice drivers is illegal in Illinois, as it is for drivers going through a school zone or highway construction zone. Texting while driving is illegal for all Illinois drivers. Chicago bans specific types of distracted driving, such as texting while driving or talking on a cell phone behind the wheel. Other communities in the Chicago metro area are considering similar laws.

Rear-End Accidents and Whiplash Injuries

Rear-end car crashes are the primary cause of whiplash, a traumatic injury that damages neck muscles, neck ligaments and spinal disks. When a car is hit from behind by another motor vehicle, the impacted car violently lurches forward. This can cause drivers’ and passengers’ heads and necks to abruptly extend and then snap back.

Whiplash victims may suffer:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Headaches, most commonly at the base of the skull
  • Pain in the shoulder or between the shoulder blades
  • Low back pain
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability.

Victims typically suffer months of pain as they recover from their injuries. Some whiplash victims suffer for years or even develop persistent pain that never completely goes away. Of course, the impact from a car crash can cause numerous other injuries or death as well.

Reckless Driving Accidents

Most people operate their cars in a safe manner. But it takes only one irresponsible person to cause an accident. If a driver causes an accident by driving with “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property,” according to Illinois law, they are guilty of reckless driving.

Reckless driving is also called “aggressive driving.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says “aggressive driving” occurs when “an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.”

Behaviors that would be considered reckless or aggressive driving include:

  • Speeding in excess of 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit
  • Running red lights or stop signs
  • Failing to yield right of way
  • Weaving in and out of traffic / improper lane usage
  • Following too closely (such as tailgating)
  • Passing on the right
  • Cutting off or hemming in another vehicle
  • Performing 180-degree turns (such as U-turns)
  • Racing
  • Using an incline in the road, such as a railroad crossing, with the intent of making the vehicle airborne.

Drunk driving, drugged driving and distracted driving – including texting while driving or talking on a cell phone while driving – also are examples of reckless driving.

In its 2010 Annual Report, the Illinois State Police cited the “Fatal Five” traffic offenses and the number of citations issued for each of them across the state. Four of the “Fatal Five” are acts of reckless driving (not using a seatbelt is the fifth). The frequency of these acts of reckless driving in Illinois is startling:

  • Speeding – 214,995 citations (11,134 in Chicago)
  • Improper lane usage – 19,469 citations (4,075 in Chicago)
  • DUI (drunk or drugged driving) – 12,324 citations issued (1,288 in Chicago)
  • Following too closely – 4,146 citations (560 in Chicago).

Pedestrians and Reckless Driving Accidents

Pedestrians are particularly vulnerable to reckless drivers in large metropolitan areas like Chicago. In a 2011 study of pedestrian fatalities, the Chicago Department of Transportation said the most common motorist action in a crash involving a pedestrian was failing to yield. The most common pedestrian action at the time of a crash was “crossing with the signal.” “Failure to yield” was cited as the primary factor in 48 percent of pedestrian crashes in Chicago, including collisions that resulted in serious injury and death.

Compensation for Reckless Driving Victims

Reckless / aggressive driving is a conscious act. It results from a willful disregard for the consequences of one’s actions. If you have been injured or have lost a loved one due to someone else’s intentional disregard for safety, Illinois law says that you may be entitled to receive financial compensation for your losses.

When any reckless act by a driver causes personal injury, death or property damage, the harmed party has a right to be compensated for medical bills, loss of income, disability, wrongful death and scarring or disfigurement.

However, there is a limited amount of time to take legal action in a reckless driving case. So, it is important to obtain legal help immediately.

Side-Impact Accidents

Side-impact crashes are among the most frequent and harmful to occur on Chicago and Illinois roads. Such crashes can be particularly deadly because the sides of vehicles have relatively little space to absorb energy and shield occupants, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The IIHS says that side-impact accidents account for about 25 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths each year in the U.S.

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) in its 2010 car crash data says there were 30,884 “angle” crashes in the state, and 27,393 sideswipe accidents. Angle and sideswipe accidents accounted for 20 percent of all car wrecks in the state in 2010. In these side-impact accidents, 18,080 people suffered personal injury, and 136 were killed.

Types of Side-Impact Collision Injuries

Car drivers and passengers are likely to suffer injuries to the head, neck, chest, abdomen, pelvis and/or limbs in a side-impact collision.

As would be expected, occupants on the struck side of a car and occupants of lighter-weight vehicles are more likely to be injured in side-impact accidents. One study based on 140 side-impact accidents in the United Kingdom quantified injuries to drivers and passengers in side-impact accidents according to position – struck side or opposite side – in the struck car:

  • Head injury – 64% struck side; 82% opposite side
  • Neck injury – 12% struck side; 20% opposite side
  • Chest injury – 85% struck side; 73% opposite side
  • Abdomen injury – 59% struck side; 49% opposite side
  • Pelvis injury – 26% struck side; 14% opposite side
  • Upper limb injury – 2% struck side; 10% opposite side
  • Lower limb injury – 21% struck side; 12% opposite side

Occupants of a vehicle in a side-impact crash may also be injured by contact with a person sitting next to them in the car. These injuries can be severe and sometimes life threatening. The IIHS journal that reported the study of British accidents above says, “The researchers also documented cases in which unbelted (vehicle) occupants became human missiles, inflicting mortal injuries upon fellow occupants.”

The IIHS says automakers have made big strides in side protection in recent years by installing side airbags and strengthening the structures of vehicles.

Legal Help for Side-Impact Accident Victims

Accidents usually happen for a reason. If a side-impact accident happens because a driver has operated their car in a reckless or negligent manner, anyone who has been injured or has lost a loved one in that accident should be made whole financially. They should be compensated for their medical bills and other financial losses, and for their pain and suffering.

When a reckless act by a driver causes personal injury, death or property damage, the harmed party has a legal right under Illinois law to file a lawsuit that seeks compensation for medical bills, loss of income, disability, scarring or disfigurement, or wrongful death.

However, the law limits the amount of time an injured party can let pass before taking legal action in a reckless driving case. So, it is important to obtain legal assistance as soon as possible.

Speeding Accidents

Speeding occurs when a driver exceeds the posted speed limit, drives too fast for conditions or races. It is the leading contributor to highway fatalities and car wrecks causing personal injury in Illinois and across the country. In fact, it is a factor in approximately one third of the traffic deaths every year, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). In 2010, more than 10,500 people died in speeding crashes in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says.

Speeding is aggressive and reckless driving. If you have suffered injuries or the loss of a loved one in a traffic accident caused by speeding, you may be entitled to compensation for medical and/or living expenses as well as your pain and suffering. To learn how the Chicago speeding accident lawyers at Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., can help you, call us today at 312-372-1227 or use our online form. We represent clients from throughout the Chicagoland area and Illinois, including Cook and Lake counties.

Speeding and Aggressive Driving in Illinois

The results of exceeding the speed limit or otherwise driving too fast for conditions are obvious. Speeding leads to car crashes that result in personal injury and death. Still, almost all driv­ers speed and, to a somewhat lesser extent, engage in aggressive driving on occasion, the GHSA says in its 2012 “Survey of the States: Speeding and Aggressive Driving.”

“Speeding reduces a driver’s ability to steer safely around curves or objects in the roadway, extends the distance necessary to stop a vehicle, and increases the distance a vehicle travels while the driver reacts to a dangerous situation,” the NHTSA says.

Speed was a factor in 31 percent of U.S. highway fatalities in 2010, indicating an increase of 7 percent since 2000, when speeding contributed to 29 percent of the fatal car wrecks, according to the GHSA report.

The Illinois Department of Transportation says that 927 people were killed in 858 fatal crashes in Illinois in 2010. An additional 88,937 people were injured in Illinois car crashes in 2010. The Illinois State Patrol says that approximately 32 percent of all fatal crashes in the state are speed-related.

Speeding and Law Enforcement in Illinois

In Illinois, the maximum speed limit is 65 miles per hour on rural interstates, 55 mph on interstate highways near or in major cities and on other highways and 30 mph in an urban area unless some other speed restriction is established.

The State Patrol says higher speeds result in an “increased chance of a collision due to increased speed variance” between the speeding car and other vehicles, and a “greater risk of fatality resulting from higher crash impact speeds.”

The Illinois reckless driving law says that “a person commits reckless driving if he or she drives any vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Meanwhile the NHTSA defines aggressive driving as “committing a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.”

Illinois raised fines for speeding tickets in 2010. In the Chicago area, city leaders began installing cameras to identify speeders in 2012. Despite speeding and reckless driving laws, and the availability of radar, laser devices and a fleet of fixed-wing aircraft to enforce the law in Illinois, speeding is still a problem.

Texting-While-Driving Accidents

Studies show that sending or reading a text message commands a driver’s attention for a dangerous amount of time. It also increases the risk of the driver causing a crash.

This is why texting while driving is illegal in Chicago and Illinois. Still, it remains a threat on our roads.

At Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., our lawyers have seen too many people hurt and too many families devastated by texting accidents. Our goal is to help victims to recover by seeking compensation from the careless drivers who harmed them.

Why Does Texting While Driving Cause Accidents?

Texting while driving requires visual, manual and cognitive attention that the driver should instead direct toward the task of safely operating his or her vehicle.

In fact, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) reports that sending or receiving a text message diverts a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, that is the same as driving the length of a football field – blindfolded.

It’s no wonder that, according to the VTTI, you are 23 times more likely to get into a crash when you are texting while driving than you would be if you were driving without a distraction.

Teens and Texting: A Dangerous Combination

Studies show that teens, in particular, are more likely to cause texting accidents. This is because teens generally communicate more through texting than older drivers.

A recent survey indicates that teens who text and drive may also be more prone to other types of dangerous driving.

In the survey, 45 percent of high school students ages 16 and older admitted they had texted or e-mailed while driving during the prior month. These teens were five times more likely to also drive after drinking alcohol, the survey revealed.

Can You Text While Driving in Illinois?

In recognition of the dangers of texting while driving, Illinois law now prohibits writing, sending or receiving text messages while operating a motor vehicle.

On January 1, 2014, the state also banned using hand-held electronic communication devices while driving, including cell phones or “smart phones.” (Chicago already had a ban in place.)

Still, drivers continue to engage in this risky behavior. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 660,000 drivers are using a cell phone or texting “at any given daylight moment across America.”

What Can You Do if You’ve Been Injured In A Texting Accident?

You should contact an attorney immediately if you or a loved one was injured in an accident. Your lawyer will investigate whether the other driver’s texting contributed to the crash.

This can be determined by obtaining cell phone records from the other driver’s mobile service provider. The timestamps can reveal if the driver sent or read a text just before impact. In some cases, the actual content of the texts can reveal this information.

An attorney can also obtain sworn oral statements (depositions) or written statements (affidavits) from witnesses who saw the other driver texting.

At Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., we may seek to hold the driver liable for the harm you or your family member has suffered. If the driver was conducting company business at the time of the crash, his or her employer could also be held legally responsible.

We can file a legal claim against all responsible parties that seeks compensation for your medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering and other losses.

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