November 24, 2006

Rockford man collides with Illinois State Trooper on Thanksgiving

A Champaign County, Illinois accident on Thanksgiving day injured an Illinois State Trooper and a Rockford man. The collision occurred on Interstate 74 near Oakwood, Illinois, when the Rockford man apparently fell asleep at the wheel of his SUV while in the eastbound lanes of the highway, according to a Champiagn News-Gazette article. The vehicle then crossed the centerline and struck a parked Illinois State Police patrol car head-on. The SUV rolled over the top of the patrol car and ended up in a ditch.

The SUV driver was charged with charged with improper lane usage, not wearing a seat belt, not having insurance and violating Scott's Law, which requires motorists to change lanes to go around or reduce speed near parked emergency vehicles whose lights are flashing.

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November 21, 2006

School bus crash kills three students; Bus had no seat belts

The debate over equipping school buses with seat belts was brought to the fore yesterday by a fatal school bus crash in Huntsville, Alabama. Yesterday morning three high school students were killed when the bus that was taking them from their high school to a technology center plunged over a concrete wall on an elevated stretch of Interstate 565 at the U.S. 231 exit and crashed nose-first about 30 feet below.

Witnesses said that a vehicle driven by another high school student made contact with the Laidlaw school bus, causing the bus to swerve and go over the edge of the highway.
A report by The Huntsville Times stated that the bus driver was not in the bus as it fell over the concrete safety barrier. Police officials would not say if the bus driver - who was seriously injured - was ejected from the bus or if he jumped out when the bus was briefly hung up on the safety wall before falling to the ground.

The school bus was not equipped with seat belts. 43 students were on the bus when it crashed. According to The Huntsville Times, the students landed on top of one another as the bus hit the ground nose-first, with students seated at the front of the bus being crushed under the weight of other students.

The National Transportation Safety Board will examine the crash site and investigate the incident.

The NHTSA, which sets standards for school buses, requires seat belts for buses under 10,000 pounds but not for larger buses. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recently recommended that all new school buses include seat belts. The NHTSA has found that belts that only go over the lap might cause more injuries than they would prevent. The safer three-point lap and shoulder belts would reduce the risk of injury, but the NHTSA estimated that such a measure would cost up to $150 million each year while preventing only two fatalities each year nationwide.

The National PTA supports the installation of seat belts on all school buses. According to the resolution passed in 1998 by the National PTA, there were at least 62,000 school bus passenger injuries and 51 fatalities during the period 1991- 1996; research has concluded that high backed padded seats and seat belts together improve overall bus passenger safety by providing true compartmentalization in accidents, especially side impacts and rollovers; school buses manufactured after 1977 may be safely and effectively equipped with seat belts, as has been done in New York, New Jersey; and a large Type 1 school bus (66 passengers) can be equipped with seat belts for an additional $1,100 to $1,600.

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November 21, 2006

Commuter trains kill two

A New Jersey commuter train struck and killed a man early Tuesday as the train was on its way to pick up passengers stranded after their first train hit and killed a woman.

Several hundred passengers were aboard a NJ Transit train when it hit a woman in Matawan, 22 miles south of Newark, just before midnight Monday, according to the Chicago Tribune and the Associated Press. As the first death was being investigated, a second train struck and killed a man at 2 a.m. about 15 miles from Matawan. Crew members on the train did not know they had hit someone until they stopped about 4 miles away.

In Illinois, pursuant to statute, 625 ILCS 5/18C-7401, “[e]ach rail carrier shall, consistent with rules, orders, and regulations of the Federal Railroad Administration, construct, maintain, and operate all of its equipment, track, and other property in this State in such a manner as to pose no undue risk to its employees or the person or property of any member of the public.” When injuries or deaths occur on commuter rail lines owned, operated or managed by private rail carriers, as in the Chicago area, these entities can be subject to lawsuits when negligence occurs.

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November 20, 2006

Berkelely, Illinois man killed by alleged drunk driver

A Berkeley, Illinois man was killed by an alleged drunk driver moments after surviving his own one-vehicle accident on a Chicago highway Monday morning. The early morning incident occurred on I-290, just west of the Chicago city line. The Berkeley man was killed just after he had escaped from his overturned vehicle, which had been traveling east on I-290 between Austin Boulevard and Oak Park Avenue when it rolled onto its right side, landing in oncoming traffic.
After the driver climbed out of his car he was struck by the alleged drunk driver, who then fled the scene.

Witnesses gave the Illinois State Police a description and license number, and Chicago Police, responding to the emergency broadcast, went to the address where the hit and run car was registered. Once there, they found the car as well as its allegedly intoxicated owner.
According to the Illinois State Police and the Chicago Sun-Times, the car had damage consistent with the crash and brain matter on the right front side.

The drunk driver remains in custody pending charges.

The family of the deceased driver will have a negligence claim against the alleged drunk driver, as well as a dram shop claim against any establishment that served him alcohol contributing to his intoxication.

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November 10, 2006

Chicago train service interrupted as car flips onto tracks

In Chicago a car flipped over on the Dan Ryan Expressway, interrupting CTA service on the Red Line subway on the South Side on Friday morning.

The accident happened about 10 a.m. inbound Intersate 90/94 near 83rd Street, according to the Illinois State Police. The car, traveling northbound, flipped over, resulting in at least one personal injury.

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November 6, 2006

School bus injuries and seat belts

According to new report published today in the journal Pediatrics, and discussed in a Chicago Tribune article by Jeremy Manier and Carolyn Starks, children riding in school buses sustain about 17,000 injuries each year, far more than previous estimates. The results of the report show that children ages 10 to 14 have the greatest chance of injury. The study found that while only 42 percent of school bus injuries that required emergency room care happened during a crash, many of the other injuries occurred when children fell during sudden stops or while they were getting on or off the bus.

Yet, when fatalities are calculated, school buses are still safer than cars. Federal estimates say school buses account for just 0.2 deaths per 100 million miles traveled, compared with 1.5 fatalities per million miles for passenger vehicles.

According the Chicago Tribune article, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), which sets standards for school buses, requires seat belts for buses under 10,000 pounds but not for larger buses, which are better able to absorb impacts. While the American Academy of Pediatrics has apparently recommended that all new school buses include seat belts, the NHTSA found that belts that only go over the lap might cause more injuries than they would prevent. The safer three-point lap and shoulder belts would reduce the risk of injury, but the NHTSA estimated that such a measure would cost up to $150 million each year while preventing only two fatalities each year nationwide.

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November 5, 2006

Rockford, Illinois death could lead to Illinois Dram Shop claim

A Rockford, Illinois man drove his car off the road and struck a tree early Saturday, killing his passenger. The driver, Antonio Mitchell, 24, was charged with negligent driving and aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol, and was listed by the Rockford Register Star in critical condition at Rockford Memorial Hospital. The passenger, Kevin Thomas, 45, Poplar Grove, died at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center where he was taken after the 1:58 a.m. crash at Fairview Boulevard and Greenwood Avenue in Rockford.

The passenger’s family in this case would have a cause of action against the driver for negligence and willful and wanton conduct. The family may also have a claim for damages under the Illinois Dram Shop Act, 235 ILCS 5/6-21 against anyone, including a bar or restaurant, that sold or gave liquor to the driver, causing his intoxication at the time of the occurrence.

Dram Shop Act cases have a strict one year statute of limitations under the Illinois statute. If you have been injured by a drunk driver, you should consult legal counsel immediately.

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