COVID-19 UPDATE from Bellas & Wachowski

Traffic Down, Accidents Up? Stress To Blame.

Published on September 1st, 2020

We are several months into the coronavirus pandemic and many American’s are still trying to do their part by minimizing non-essential travel, gathering, and contact with others. The majority of those fortunate enough to still be employed are finding themselves working from home, eliminating much of the need for in-person communication and travel by car. As a result, these factors have led to quieter streets and stiller highways, yet somehow the number of car accidents has still increased across the nation since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Open Roads, Higher Speeds, More Auto Accidents

Studies show that there are nearly half the amount of cars on the road as there were prior to the pandemic, but nearly double the rate of automobile accidents. States like California, New York, and Boston have seen significant increases in automobile related deaths, and the state of Illinois specifically has seen an 11% increase in recent months. Despite the anticipated decrease in automobile accidents during this time, it isn’t a complete surprise that roads that were once flooded with traffic have now become a breeding ground for speeding and reckless driving. Chicago-based CCC research, which tests technology and provides information for insurance companies, has shown that accidents that have occurred during the current pandemic have been happening at higher speeds. As people struggle to feel a sense of freedom and liberation, they are taking advantage of these open streets and highways to regain somewhat of a sense of those feelings. 

But why the change in behavior? In general, stress increases the risk of being involved in a car accident. Especially in times like these, stress levels are exceptionally high. Many are experiencing changes in their sleep patterns or daily routines, worrying about their own/ their loved ones health, fearing for the future, etc. Driving while stressed or anxious is actually one of the most common forms of distracted driving because it interferes with your focus on the task at hand. Additionally, negative stressors often cause people to operate at higher speeds, which means less time to react or make quick decisions, leading to more dangerous driving and more fatal accidents. Thus, the increase in these events is likely a result of overwhelmed and stressed-out drivers who may not even realize the mistakes they’re making while driving until it’s too late. As more and more people are returning to the roads it is important to practice safe, aware, and relaxed driving and to become educated on your state’s speeding laws.  

Illinois Enforces Harsh Penalties for Speeders

In the state of Illinois driving over the speed limit is taken very seriously and while consequences are dependent on the circumstances, they generally go as follows: 1-20 mph over the speed limit may result in a $120 fine, between 21-25 mph over the speed limit may result in a $140 fine, between 26-34 mph over the speed limit may result in a Class B misdemeanor, up to $1,500 in fines, and up to six months in jail, and 35+ mph over the speed limit may result in a class A misdemeanor, up to $2,500 in fines, and up to one year in jail. There are also special rules such as speeding in school zones, which may result in a $150 fine for the first offense and up to a $300 for a second or repeated offense. Speeding violations that occur in construction zones may result in a $250 fine for a first offense and up to a $750 fine for a second or repeat offense. Speeding violations negatively affect your driving record, and too many will result in a license suspension.

If speeding is the reason for a minor accident to occur, the responsible party will likely be fined and sued for personal injury and a claim will be made against their insurance to pay for any damage. In a more serious case, a speeding violation can lead to a “reckless driving” conviction, which is a class A misdemeanor. Someone facing this charge may receive up to two years probation, fines up to $2,500, and up to one year in jail is no one was injured in the accident.

Drivers Who Cause Injury To Others Face Felony Charges 

All reckless driving incidents that cause any injuries are considered feloniesCausing minor injury to a child or crossing guard is a class 4 felony and typically results in one to three years in prison, up to 30 years of probation, and up to $25,000 in fines. Causing serious injury (great bodily hard or permanent disability) to another is considered guilty of “aggravated reckless driving”. This is considered to be a class 4 felony and typically results in one to three years in prison, up to 30 years of probation, and up to $25,000 in fines. Causing serious injury to a child or crossing guard (great bodily hard or permanent disability) to another is considered guilty of “aggravated reckless driving”. This is considered to be a class 3 felony and typically results in two to five years in prison, up to 30 years of probation, and up to $25,000 in fines. Lastly, if there are any deaths involved as a result of reckless driving, it will likely result in reckless homicide charges.

Get Help from Experienced Auto Accident Lawyer

Serious car accident cases as the result of reckless driving require an attorney to help determine proper liability. If you or someone you know has been involved in an accident, contact us to learn more about your legal rights and options. Peter Wachowski has over 25 years practicing law in the field of personal injury and criminal defense can help you evaluate your claim to determine the right course of action.

 

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