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The National Highway Traffic Administration has recently posted the latest traffic fatality figures and they show deadly car crashes rising to a nine-year high.  The statistics show that car accidents accounted for 37,461 fatalities in 2016 which is a rise of 5.6% over 2015.  Personal Injury lawyer Peter Zneimer notes that surprisingly, distracted driving deaths actually fell 2.2% from 2015 to 2016.  Two categories where fatalities did rise were deaths caused by speeding (4% rise) and deaths caused by not wearing seat belts (4.6% rise).  The attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C.  are concerned that the NHTA recorded a 9% jump in pedestrian deaths.  The large jump in pedestrian deaths underscore the need for more focus on making urban areas safer for pedestrians.  As discussed in previous Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. blogs, the city of Chicago has endorsed the Vision Zero initiative which is a movement that seeks to eliminate pedestrian deaths entirely.  Cities that are adopting the vision zero philosophy utilize technology, traffic engineering along an emphasis of enforcing traffic safety laws to reach this goal. Pedestrians are the category of people that are most vulnerable to injury from traffic accidents.

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A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that any dog, regardless of breed, has the potential to bite and cause minor to severe injuries, no matter how well-trained it is. Even the most seemingly friendly and gentle canines, at the slightest provocation, can get aggressive and attack. Insurance giant, State Farm, knows this all too well. Last year, State Farm disbursed a total of 13.9 million dollars for 323 reported dog-bite claims in Illinois alone.

Based on that same report from State Farm, the state of Illinois is second only to California when it comes to the number of dog-bite claims. Dog attacks are found to increase when children are out of school and more people are out with their dogs. Lake County Animal Care and Control reports 1,100 dog bites against humans last year though there has been no fatal dog attack in the county. However, officials in the same county are confident in their efforts to reduce these numbers.

There has been a spattering of gravely serious incidents such as the one involving an 8-year old girl from Zion which occurred early October 2015. As chronicled by the Chicago Tribune, the family’s pit bull attacked the girl to her face. When officers arrived at the scene, they found the girl bleeding profusely with a towel pressed to her face. Some cases were so bad it ended with the dog being euthanized.

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You want to go for a walk or a run along a road that has a shoulder but no sidewalk and you cannot decide whether to walk or run with traffic or against traffic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Transportation Department and the personal injury lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. recommend walking or running against traffic.

A recent Chicago Tribune article takes note of a study undertook in Finland that looked at data from 2006 to 2010 involving 258 pedestrians being hit by cars.  The study concluded that facing traffic when walking is significantly safer than walking with traffic. The study found that pedestrians facing traffic had a 77 percent lower risk of being hit and injured by a car than pedestrians walking with traffic.

The reasons appear to be obvious.  When a pedestrian is facing on coming traffic, the pedestrian can see and react to the motorist.  If the motorist is distracted by texting or by talking on the phone and is driving near the shoulder, or if the motorist is sleepy and is weaving and drifting near the shoulder, the pedestrian can react by getting farther from the roadway when the car is passing. Attorney, Peter Zneimer has handled an injury case where a runner was hit from behind by a car while running on the shoulder with the victim receiving no warning whatsoever.   In that situation, the runner would have been much safer facing traffic when running which would have enabled him to watch for cars driving near the shoulder and to take defensive measures when necessary.

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As the city of Chicago’s way of advancing its commitment to prioritizing traffic safety, it created a comprehensive plan called Vision Zero. It is spearheaded by Mayor  Rahm Emanuel and was modeled after a road traffic safety project that began in Sweden and has since influenced many U.S cities, many of which have adopted it.

According to the Illinois Department of Transportation 2010-2014, someone dies every three days as a result of a traffic crash. Personal injury attorney, Peter Zneimer believes that Vision Zero will help in reducing traffic-related deaths and serious injuries.  This city has seen an alarming increase of bicycle crashes by 67% last year, based on data from the Chicago Police Department. Vision Zero seeks to lessen this number, while encouraging more people to walk, bike and take public transit.

Chicago is already the national leader on Complete Streets that largely focuses on pedestrian safety, designing streets that are intended to promote a culture of safety especially for the most vulnerable roadway users.  Vision Zero will take it further by studying how the design process can be integrated into determining the correct speed limits for each street in every community. It calls on law enforcement to focus on so-called high-crash areas.  The Mayor is seeking funding to carry out these goals.

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More young professionals are investing in bicycles as an alternative mode of transportation especially in big cities such as Chicago which has been named last year as the most bike-friendly U.S city. Millennials not only invest in bicycling as a pastime or a good way to exercise, they have embraced it as part of a healthier, greener lifestyle.

While the city of Chicago has been making strides at making its rowdy city streets easier on bike commuters with the creation of its popular bike-share program, Divvy Bikes, the Illinois Department of Transportation reports 1,171 individuals injured and 10 bicyclists killed on average every year. But here’s the catch: these fatalities do not occur in the city but in suburbs where the infrastructure was designed not with bicyclists in mind years ago, but with people driving cars. Individuals behind the wheel more often than not look at the lone bicyclist with mistrust and sometimes with animosity because of the liability they are sure to face. This mentality, though faulty, is spawned from years of auto-centric planning on a large scale and because historically, America has been a driving nation.

Personal injury attorney, Peter Zneimer, notes that this is not the case anymore. As more individuals become more socially and environmentally conscious, biking is no longer a hobby but a practical reality for many in our streets. As personal injury cases arise out of bike-related accidents whether in congested cities or quiet suburbs, the question of safety and liability should be discussed at length.  The Governors Highway Safety Association reports an alarming increase in bike deaths by 12.2 percent in 2015 as published in a Washington Post article. Personal injury lawyers at Zneimer and Zneimer P.C.  believe both drivers and bikers have an equal amount of responsibility on the road, as they should, but the truth is that bikers are more prone to grave injuries or worse, death.

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The first section of the Lakefront Trail separation project has been completed from 31st Street to 41st.  The separation project will provide separate paths for bikers and pedestrians along the 18 mile trail.  The Chicago Tribune reports that the  two-year project will stretch from Ardmore street to 71st Street and will cost $12 million dollars with money provided by billionaire Ken Griffin.

Personal injury lawyer, Peter Zneimer who is a frequent user of the trail notes that a safety upgrade was badly needed.  Bikers, traveling at all speeds negotiate the trail around joggers, walkers, baby-strollers, roller bladders, along with many people just crossing the path to get to the lake front.   In fact, according the Active Transportation Alliance, an estimated 100,000 people use the trail on weekends during the summer.

It is no surprise that there have been many collisions on the Lakefront Trail between bikers and pedestrians and between bikers and other bikers.  Many of these collisions have resulted in serious injuries and even fatalities.  People even bring small children just learning to ride a bike onto the trail seemly oblivious to the dangers on the trail.  Perhaps one of the greatest dangers on the trial are bicyclists who insist on pedaling at recklessly high speeds totally heedless to the fact that there are a large number of inattentive children and adults present who may wander into their path at any time. The personal injury lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. hope that the separated lanes may reduce injuries from collisions on the trail.

 

 

 

The advent of a global ride-hailing app is probably one of the most ingenious innovations of the last 10 years. It has radically altered the ride-sharing business, disrupted the cab-industry and possibly, renewed car ownership interest for people in big cities who rely on public transportation to get them to their destinations. Personal injury lawyer, Peter Zneimer notes that while the convenience of having a ride at the click of a button cannot be beat, the question of safety is always a topical discussion, not only between passengers and drivers but also for personal injury attorneys due to the question of liability.

Uber, though faced with strong competition in the face of Lyft, is still the biggest player out there and has come under fire lately for the way it has addressed safety issues. Both passengers and drivers alike share an understandable apprehension of the ride-sharing app despite the convenience. UberPool, a service introduced as a way to reduce fares by allowing two or more passengers travelling in the same direction to share one Uber vehicle, is under controversy for the number of high-risk incidents associated with it. One particular incident reported in the Chicago Tribune on April 5, 2017, highlights the hazards of ride-sharing with complete strangers. Twenty-five year old Jennifer Camacho called for UberPool on January 30, 2017 and was the second of two pick-ups. According to Ms. Camacho, as soon as she got inside the UberPool vehicle, “the passenger in the front seat allegedly turned around and began slashing Camacho with a 3-inch blade”. Camacho incurred wounds to her face and is likely to be scarred for life.  Camacho with the help of her attorneys sued Uber for at least $50,000 in damages for negligence. Uber’s insurance company denied coverage because the incident was not considered an auto accident.

This incident is just one too many being reported nationwide, prompting the question: What is Uber doing to address the issue of safety concerns? From a legal standpoint, it seems fair to argue that Uber does have a duty to protect both its employers (drivers) and passengers who can be victims in cases that are not auto accidents but in circumstances far more insidious than a regular rear-ender, such as the Camacho case. The lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer believe that since Uber has control of who its drivers pick-up, the drivers have the duty to do all they can to ensure the safety of their customers after they have entered their vehicle.

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A Chicago Tribune article from September 5, 2016 points out that no statistics are kept by the city of Chicago regarding how many rideshare drivers for Uber and Lyft are involved in crashes every year.  The Chicago personal injury lawyers of  Zneimer & Zneimer are surprised by the lack of safety data given the large number of Uber and Lyft drivers on the road.  Attorney, Peter Zneimer is currently handling many accident cases involving Uber and Lyft drivers involved in traffic accidents that have caused serious injuries due to the negligence of the rideshare driver.  Police crash reports do not have any box to check if a Lyft or Uber driver was involved in the crash.  Chicago Police officer and spokesman Jose Estrada was quoted in the article, pointed out that “Taxicabs are easier to identify and document on the traffic crash report because of their specially issued Illinois license plates and medallion numbers,” “For Uber or Lyft, there is no designation because they are regular vehicles with no special municipal or state licensing. It may be designated as an Uber or Lyft if the reporting officer writes that in the narrative portion, but that’s left up to the discretion of the officer.”

Illinois Department of Transportation uses this information to track the number of taxi accidents.  From this data, it was revealed that there were 4,129 crashes taxi crashes in Chicago.  830 of these crashes caused injuries and 3 of these crashes caused fatalities.  It would be useful to have accident data for Uber and Lyft drivers to make a safety comparison  between rideshare drivers and taxi drivers to see if there is a difference in frequency of crashes. Given the popularity of ridesharing services these days it would be nice to know if there is any greater risk of accident by using a rideshare service versus using a taxi service.

Uber passengers and Lyft passengers can have some reassurance that if they are injured due to the negligence of their driver, Uber and Lyft drivers are covered by a one million dollar insurance policy while they are “on the clock”  meaning from the time they are picked up until the time they are dropped off.  Other drivers on the road that may be injured by an Uber or Lyft driver can also make a claim against the one million dollar policy when the rideshare driver is “on the clock”.  If the driver is not “on the clock” then that driver’s own insurance policy  has to provide coverage.

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The Chicago Tribune reports that Chicago Mayor Emanuel’s plan to make city trucks safer has been advanced in the Chicago City Council.  Chicago lawyer, Peter Zneimer observes that many fatal bike accidents that have occurred in the last few years in Chicago have involved trucks.  Visibility for bicyclist riding in traffic is always a major problem even for people driving automobiles.  The visibility of bicyclists is a much greater problem for truckers.  Almost all of the bicyclist accident cases handled by the attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer involve a motorist not seeing the bicyclist  prior to the crash either due to distraction, lack of attention or the bicyclist was in a blind spot.  Guarded bike lanes are the best solution but they are cost prohibitive to construct everywhere.

The Mayor’s proposes to require city trucks to install side guards, which cover the area between the front and rear wheels of a truck to make it harder for pedestrians or bicyclists to be caught under the wheels of the truck after a crash.  The ordinance would also require trucks to have additional convex mirrors.  The law would also mandate additional training for city employee truck drivers and contractors to improve safety awareness.

The one downside of the proposed law is that the ordinance would give the city almost ten years to make the changes on city trucks.  Contractors who do business with the city would get four years to make the safety changes on their trucks.

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The Chicago Tribune reports that one in four motorists were using their phone shortly before a crash occurred.  The report cited a study conducted by Cambridge Mobile Telematics, a company that makes applications for insurance companies.   The personal injury lawyer, Peter Zneimer notes that more and more of the pedestrian and bike cases he handles involve a driver who is on his or her cell phone and is distracted at the time the crash occurs.  The personal injury attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer have even handled a case where a motorist dropped her cell phone on the floor of her car while driving and was rummaging around the floor of her car with her eyes completely off the road when she hit our client who was bicycling and was completely in his bike lane at time of impact.  Our client suffered serious injuries because of the gross negligence of this extremely distracted driver.

The state of Illinois has had a law against using a cell phone while driving since 2014.  A ticket for driving while using a cell phone is $75.00, going up to $150.00 for repeat offenders.  One would expect to see a big difference the amount of time that drivers spend on the phone in the state of illinois that has a ban on driving and talking on a cell phone and states that do not have any prohibitions for cell phone use. However, the Cambridge study, which looked at more than 100,000 drivers over 18 months, found little difference.  In Illinois, the average time on the phone was 3.17 minutes per 100 miles versus 3.82 minutes on the phone for drivers in states with no cell phone law.

Not too surprisingly, the top 10 percent of distracted drivers, i.e. the drivers who spent the most time on the phone were 2.3 times more likely than the average driver to get into a crash.