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More macabre numbers for pedestrians as the Governors Highway Safety Association released on Thursday disturbing statistics regarding pedestrian deaths. According to the GHSA report, a total of 6,590 pedestrian lives were lost last year – the highest number in 30 years. (https://www.ghsa.org/resources/news-releases/pedestrians20.  The numbers speak for themselves and warrant intervention from everyone involved, including pedestrians themselves and spurs the question, how can walking claim so many lives?

Interestingly enough, there has been a steady decline of traffic casualties over the last few years. We have seen improvements in vehicles equipped with the latest crash avoidance and mitigation technology. Many US jurisdictions have implemented traffic safety programs, addressing poorly designed roadways and educating motorists on basic safety practices to prevent distracted driving, especially in the smartphone age. Why then are we seeing an uptick in pedestrian deaths? To Chicago personal injury attorneys at Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C., this comes as no surprise. It is important to note that most pedestrian deaths occur in metropolitan areas, where there is high foot traffic, as more people are willing to commute less and walk more. Metropolitan areas normally have a profuse nightlife, with many bars and entertainment venues, thereby increasing the likelihood of alcohol impairment in individuals walking the streets at night, in the dark. There is a proliferation of SUV’s on the streets, behemoth vehicles that as studies have shown in the past, accounted for an 81 percent increase in single-vehicle pedestrian fatalities. These behemoth vehicles with their unforgiving higher front-end profile does not discriminate between walkers, joggers, the old and the young and have killed numerous, from the strong impact combined with the velocity at which the SUV was running. (https://www.chicagoaccidentlawyerblog.com/big-increase-in-pedestrian-deaths-linked-to-suvs/)

Vehicles will always win over pedestrians and cyclists, the latter of which has about a 2% share in all traffic related fatalities each year. Though the city of Chicago has embraced initiatives such as Vision Zero and recently, a proposal (https://chicago.suntimes.com/politics/2020/2/19/21143864/lori-lightfoot-bike-lanes-bus-crackdown)  to curb bad driving behaviors downtown like scofflaws parking in dedicated bus and bike lanes, the challenge to reduce pedestrian and cyclist death looms ahead.  The lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer note that we have a long way to go.

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The Land of Lincoln greeted the year 2020 with the much sought-after legalization of recreational cannabis, becoming the 11th state to legalize the product. Dispensaries are struggling to keep up with the medical and recreational demand, selling $40 million dollars’ worth of legal weed in January alone.  Chicago dispensaries have long lines with people waiting to make purchases.  Indubitably, Illinois had a successful weed industry launch however, personal injury lawyer, Peter Zneimer of Zneimer and Zneimer P.C.  notes that the question of impairment and the proper ways to determine it remains controversial in many circles, particularly in law enforcement.

People driving stoned and the methods employed to determine a driver’s impairment, is in its infancy and experimental stages, which is a struggle that law enforcement officials and legislators continue to deal with, even in states like Colorado where weed has been legal since 2014 (https://www.summitdaily.com/news/how-high-is-too-high-5-years-after-legalization-colorado-struggles-to-test-marijuana-impairment-for-drivers/) . While intoxication can be easily deduced from the smell or with the 12-step Sobriety Test, there is yet to be a standardized test designed to accurately measure weed impairment. Under Illinois law, it is illegal to drive high and if you test positive for five nanograms of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) per milliliter of blood, your driver’s license will be revoked  on top of potential criminal charges. Carol Stream Police Department has rolled out a saliva testing program to measure marijuana impairment (https://abc7chicago.com/5526516/). Police officers are using an mLife Diagnostics manufactured device to determine the presence of THC. This sounds easy enough, but the problem lies in the body’s extended retention of THC as opposed to alcohol which the body eliminates faster.  Whether you are an avid smoker or not, THC stays in your body for weeks even after the high has worn off, which means should your saliva get tested, it will produce a positive result but a positive result is not necessarily tantamount to impairment.   Since science has not fully caught up with the popularity of weed use, police officers cannot merely rely on the device’s detection of THC. They can only use it as evidence to support probable cause to arrest the person. The police officer must make the final determination for impairment. https://herald-review.com/news/state-and-regional/crime-and-courts/illinois-police-want-to-know-who-s-driving-while-stoned/article_0e4c663d-8e4b-5d54-aac3-3c7a251b07a4.html

The effects of THC include an increased sense of well-being or euphoria, relaxation, slowed psycho-motor response, an altered sense of time, short term memory impairment and impairment of multi-tasking performance. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found in 2016, that 38% of fatally injured drivers in the country, tested positive for marijuana  https://herald-review.com/news/state-and-regional/crime-and-courts/illinois-police-want-to-know-who-s-driving-while-stoned/article_0e4c663d-8e4b-5d54-aac3-3c7a251b07a4.html. Personal injury attorneys at Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. can see the likelihood of this percentage increasing if more people who have ready access to weed are unable to ascertain their own impairment and take the wheel. Not only that, weed smokers who are stopped on the road suspected for impairment, may not willingly submit to being swabbed. Despite the murkiness of marijuana impairment, the real responsibility lies on weed users and to drive sober.

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A new transportation trend is popping up in cities around the world. E-scooters are considered viable alternatives to other, less environmentally conscious ways to get around town. But the attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C., want to know how these scooters are being embraced by city-dwellers and visitors alike. Chicago created an e-Scooter Pilot Program, which gave permits to ten companies to test the viability of e-scooters as a mobility option and “was designed to maximize safety and minimize sidewalk clutter” within its city limits.[i] The pilot program lasted from June 15, 2019 to October 15, 2019 and reported over 800,000 rides.[ii] The city released an evaluation report to determine the impact of emerging scooter technologies on communities, the safety of residents and riders, and on existing transportation. The report showed that “nearly half of the scooter rides started or ended near public transit with the survey confirming 34 percent of riders used the scooters to connect to public transit.”[iii] Scooters are not only a convenient means of transportation, but they are also better for the environment. In fact, “[i]n the four-month pilot period, the e-scooters eliminated approximately 300,000 miles of vehicle travel, equivalent to approximately 116 tons of CO2.”[iv] Yet, e-scooters are not completely carbon neutral. North Carolina State University conducted a study that found each e-scooter contributes 50 to 200g of CO2 per mile.[v] While e-scooters are helping Chicago reduce its carbon emissions, more work needs to be done if the city wants to reach its goal to be carbon neutral by 2050.

The E-Scooter Pilot Evaluation also brought other issues to light, including accessibility and durability of the E-scooters. The executive summary from Chicago’s Business Affairs & Consumer Protection and Department of Transportation states, “Ridership was geographically concentrated in areas with a high density of other options such as Divvy, bus and rail, rather than in areas with fewer options. Analysis of the data also indicates that the jury is still out on whether e-scooters connect riders to public transit or replace private car or ride-hailing trips. More work also needs to be done to lower the environmental impact of the short life cycle of e-scooters.”[vi] E-scooters, while praised for their environmental sustainability benefits, need to be more sustainable in their design. NC State University also looked into this issue in its study, which found that a scooter’s life cycle produced emissions even before it hits the street. These emissions derive from “the production of the materials, like the lithium-ion battery and aluminum parts; the manufacturing process; shipping the scooter from its country of origin (mainly China) to its city of use; and collecting, charging, and redistributing scooters as part of the dockless service.”[vii] As e-scooters become more technologically developed, these durability concerns should diminish.

Chicago is a “Leadership City” in the American Cities Climate Challenge, a program designed by Bloomberg Philanthropies to reduce carbon pollution and deepen public support for a sustainable future.[viii] As a participant of the program, Chicago has pledged to reduce carbon emissions, including implementing changes within the city’s transportation and building sectors, and e-scooters seem to be helping. The city has recommended a second e-scooter pilot program to launch in 2020, where it can “implement lessons learned and test new solutions with a goal of identifying ways to expand access to safe, reliable and equitable mobility options for Chicago residents.”[ix]

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Everyday, Chicago drivers navigate busy streets that are flooded with other vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians – all hurriedly trying to get to their final destination. And one maneuver drivers often make places everyone who shares the road in a tricky, and sometimes dangerous, situation – making a left turn.

Nationally, nearly 180 pedestrians die annually after being struck by a vehicle making a left turn. Peter Zneimer, personal injury attorney at Zneimer & Zneimer PC in Chicago, notes that these accidents can occur even though all traffic signals are obeyed – the turning driver has a green light at the same time pedestrians have the walk light. Before making the turn, the driver has to quickly consider when the light will turn, whether the oncoming lanes are clear, and if pedestrians are in the car’s blind spot (not to mention the distracting honks coming from the car behind). These split-second considerations make up what is called the “driver workload,” according to Jeff Shaw, the Intersections Program Manager for the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Safety.

One factor of the driver workload is gauging the speed and distance of oncoming traffic, and often times drivers speed through the intersection to make it before light turns red. This acceleration is a primary reason why left turns are more deadly for pedestrians than right turns. Another factor contributing to the driver workload is a vehicle’s blind spot, specifically the car frame’s A-pillars. A-pillars, or windshield pillars, block a driver’s view of the road. The driver must break out of her normal field of vision to check for objects like pedestrians that may be positioned within these blind spots, which may pose a risk to hazards that may appear within the driver’s normal field of vision while she is performing the check. According to Dr. Matthew Reed, Professor at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, “When we compare the data, we find that drivers could see more outside their vehicles in the 1980s than they can now.” Many modern vehicles have wider A-pillars, and bigger blind spots as a result. One nationwide company has devised an innovative solution to dealing with the danger of left turns – it doesn’t do them!

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Biking advocates are pushing for the city to recommit to its goal to make biking safer after the recent deaths of three cyclists. Although Chicago has a reputation for bicycling and was named the top city for bicycling in 2016, the city has averaged 5.5 deaths of cyclists per year since 2012.

In 2012, the city adopted a plan to build more protected bike lanes across a 645-mile network of on-street bikeways by 2020. Although Chicago initially pursued this plan by building or upgrading 116.25 miles of bike lanes between 2012 to 2015, the pace of bike lane construction has fallen significantly. Since 2015, the city added merely 66.4 miles of bike lanes, and only 8.5 of those miles were protected. Yet in this time (from 2012 to 2018), 5.5 bicyclists were killed per year in the city.

In 2017, in the wake of a “right hook” incident where a bicyclist was killed after a truck that was traveling in the same direction turned in front of her and trapped her under the truck’s wheels, bike advocates effectively lobbied city officials to pass an ordinance requiring the city’s truck fleet to be equipped with convex mirrors and side guards – to prevent someone from falling under the truck’s wheels – by 2026. This ordinance also requires trucks operated by companies with city contracts to implement these changes by 2021.

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The state of Illinois is upping it’s reinforcement of Scott’s Law, nearly 19 years since the death of the law’s namesake, 37 year old fireman Scott Gillen, from a tragic accident. Governor JB Pritzker incorporated harsher penalties into the legislation, which is a variation of the “Move Over” law, increasing the fines for a first violation to at least $250, and at least $750 for any further violations.  The maximum fine could be up to $10,000. This comes as no surprise considering violators of the law cost the lives of three state troopers this year alone, with 22 drivers on record crashing into State Troopers along the side of the road this year.

Scott’s Law makes it a requirement for other drivers to cede their right of way, yield and slow down for any vehicle with its hazard lights on, to give emergency workers safe clearance while doing their jobs.  The morning of December 23, 2000, Lt. Scott Gillen was attending to a crash scene, doing everything he was trained to do and followed standard protocol, when an intoxicated Carlando J. Hurt failed to respect the flares and the warning signs surrounding the scene, pinning Lt. Scott Gillen to his firetruck and killing him. Earlier this year, State Trooper Christopher Lambert also died when he was struck by another vehicle that failed to slow down or move over.

Though Scott’s Law was enacted and designed with emergency workers in mind, in reality, it traces back to a more common issue which is distracted driving. Personal injury attorney, Peter Zneimer of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. believes that as a general rule of thumb, all individuals sharing the road must proceed with caution, no matter their role in any given situation.

 

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An 18-year-old from Gurnee, Illinois has filed a lawsuit against JUUL Labs in the wake of his hospitalization caused by use of the e-cigarettes.

Chicago personal injury lawyer, Peter Zneimer notes that this suit comes after weeks of media reports of hospitalizations of hundreds across the United States due to “mysterious” respiratory conditions, some of which turned fatal. As of today, there have been at least 6 deaths attributed to the deadly conditions.

The first victim of this epidemic died in Illinois, the CDC reported on Aug. 23. In the last month alone, the number of hospitalizations skyrocketed across the United States, with 380 cases now confirmed across 36 states. 52 of those cases have been confirmed in Illinois. (CDC)

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With 2,500 new dockless electric scooters, and countless first-time riders on the road, Chicago’s new e-scooter pilot program has gotten off to a rocky start. In the first six days alone since the launch, at least ten people went to emergency rooms for scooter-related injuries, with two of these injuries requiring surgery.

These accidents, ranging from hit-and-runs to cyclist injuries, are a rising threat for people simply getting around in the 50-square-mile testing area outside of the Loop. However, A study by the CDC and the city of Austin, TX (another city in the e-scooter boom) found that 33% of scooter accidents happen during a rider’s first time on a scooter. Another 30% of accidents occurred within the riders’ first ten rides. The data out of Austin combined with the rainy weather during Chicago’s pilot week is a recipe for deadlier accidents than ever. A 2011 study by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society found that the risk of fatal car crashes rises by 34%, the wetter the roads are.  The injury lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. urge everyone to exercise extra caution given that many first-time and new riders are getting their bearings in the direct line of traffic.

E-scooter riders are relegated to bike lanes, but lack of enforcement by the program vendors finds pedestrians dodging riders and side-stepping e-scooters left in the sidewalks and streets. The CDOT and partner vendors have distributed guidelines, via fliers, to communicate expectations of scooter use, with rules such as “We walk scooters on the sidewalk. We keep our eyes on the road. Be alert and pay attention. We wear helmets. We park scooters with care outside of sidewalk paths and by bike racks where possible. We ride in the bicycle lane. We obey all local traffic laws. They apply to us.” However, once off the bicycle lane, the app-based leaves it up to riders to decide where to park the scooters after use.

The Chicago dog bite lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer, receive many calls from personal injury victims of a dog bite. According to the CDC, over 36% of households in the United States own at least one dog.  While dogs can be close friends, sometimes this best friend will bite.  Dog bites often cause painful deep wounds, nerve damages or infection. Children become victims of dog bite more often than adults, and the injuries are more severe. The majority of the injuries occur at home with familiar dogs. As the number of dogs in a household increases, so does the likelihood of being bitten.  According to the CDC, adults “with two or more dogs in the household are five times more likely to be bitten than those living without dogs at home. Among adults, men are more likely than women to be bitten by a dog.”

The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that in 2017 approximately 350,000 people treated at hospital emergency rooms for non-fatal dog-related injuries. Of them approximately 10,600 were children two years old or younger.
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This springtime in Chicago has been the 8th rainiest year on record, according to WGN’s Tom Skilling. Although that may be good news for the flowers, it can be dangerous for everyone else. A new study by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society found that the risk of fatal car crashes rises by 34%, the wetter the roads are.

Even a light drizzle raised the risk of crashes by 27%, the study found.  Scott Stevens and his team at the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies reported that less than 1/10 of an inch accumulation of rain is enough to turn road conditions. Moderate rain boosts the chance of motor injury and fatality up to 75%, and heavy rain nearly doubles that to nearly 150%.

Stevens and his team looked at information from the 48 states in the continental U.S. and found that the risks especially increase during the morning rush hour, and in the winter months. Morning rush hour provides more congestion on the roads, and thus more opportunity for a crash.