In 2018, the state of Illinois saw more than 300,000 car accidents, with nearly half of them occurring in Cook County, where Chicago is the county seat. This is a very large number for the city of Chicago, so it’s important to take a look at what exactly is causing all of these traffic accidents, how they can be prevented, and what to do if you’re involved in a car accident in Chicago.
Cause: Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is one of the main causes of traffic accidents in Illinois, and many other places around the world. It’s defined as engaging in other activities that take your attention away from the road. Examples of activities that can take your eyes off the road include:
• Talking to others in the car
• Reading a map/GPS
• Eating and drinking
• Adjusting the radio/other listening devices
Of course, not all of these will always result in an accident (talking to others in the car and glancing at the GPS), but the majority of these activities almost always result in an accident. To be on the safe side, place your phone where you can easily see your GPS and the road, and also where you can adjust your music with one quick touch. Abstain from texting, grooming, and eating/drinking while driving, and keep your conversations to a minimum.
Cause: Drunk Driving
Drunk driving is, as the name suggests, driving after one has been drinking alcohol— whether they’re drunk or not, in most cases. It’s a part of a broader category called driving under the influence. The legal definition of driving under the influence is operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications that cause extreme drowsiness.
In 2019, 938 fatal car crashes occurred in Illinois, and 1% of these involved alcohol. In Illinois, the legal blood alcohol level is .08, but drivers can still be charged with a DUI (driving under the influence) if their level is between .05 and .08.
Speeding is another cause of car accidents in Chicago and all over the U.S. The exact definition of speeding varies by state, but according to Illinois law, driving 26 miles over the speed limit is considered aggravated speeding, and can result in misdemeanor charges. On the other hand, driving 25 miles or less over the speed limit doesn’t warrant such charges, but you can still be issued a speeding ticket.
Crashes that result from high speeds are fatal, more often than not. Speeding also prevents you from effectively scanning the road for hazards, cuts down on your reaction time, and keeps you from driving defensively.
Prevention: Defensive Driving
Unfortunately, you can’t control what other drivers are doing that can cause a wreck, but you can take certain measures to help protect yourself while on the road. Defensive driving is using safe strategies when driving by anticipating situations and making informed decisions. Some people can teach themselves how to drive defensively, but there are defensive driving courses that you can take to help better develop this skill. Defensive driving courses usually cover:
• Vehicle emergencies
• The two-second rule for following distances, plus knowing your vehicle’s stopping distance
• Sharing the road
• Scanning the roadway and adapting to the surroundings
• Reaction distance
• Railroad crossings
• Passing and right-of-way
• Environmental hazards
You’ll also cover state-specific traffic laws in a defensive driving course to ensure that you’re familiar with the laws of Illinois.
What Should You Do If You’re In A Car Accident?
The first thing you should do if you’re involved in a car accident is to move your vehicle out of the way of traffic, if possible. The very next thing you should do is call the police, even if there are no injuries and the damage is minor. You’ll also want to take pictures of the accident and get the insurance information of all parties involved in the accident.
The next person/entity you’ll want to contact is your insurance company. They may need the police report to file your claim, which is one reason why contacting the police after an accident is necessary. Finally, you may need to contact a car accident attorney to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve.
Accidents can happen unexpectedly, but there are measures that everyone can take to make sure that they’re less likely to happen. It’s up to all drivers to follow all traffic laws and to make sure they’re not distracted or intoxicated while driving.