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Cook County car accident injury lawyerMore than 37,000 people died and over two million were seriously injured in car accidents in 2017. Sadly, most of these deaths and injuries were preventable. In its 2019–2020 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) identifies some of the top causes of highway accidents and ways to prevent these injuries. The ones discussed in this article are all possible factors which could support a claim of negligence or fault for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle crash.

Personal Injury Claims Against Alcohol and Drug Impaired Drivers

Alcohol impairment is a leading cause of car accidents. In 2016, one third of fatal car crashes involved a driver with alcohol in their system. While the current standard for DUI is a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent, the NTSB would like to see states adopt a legal limit of 0.05 percent. This is something to keep in mind if you are ever injured in an accident with a drunk driver: even if the driver is not charged with being over the 0.08 legal limit, they could well be alcohol-impaired at a level of just 0.05 percent. 

The NTSB would also like all law enforcement agencies to collect “place of last drink” data as part of any accident investigation involving an alcohol-impaired driver. This could be another valuable data point for any personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

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Orland Park personal injury attorneysWith just a few short days to go before Thanksgiving, and with the winter holidays fast approaching, now is the time to consider your strategy for preventing drunk driving-related arrests or, worse, injuries. The holidays are a time for families and friends to celebrate with festive gatherings that often include delicious meals, lavish desserts, and, in many cases, beer, wine, and cocktails. If your holiday plans involve alcoholic beverages, enjoy yourself, but make a plan to get home safely and encourage your loved ones to do the same.

Seasonal Spike in Injuries

While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact percentage of increased risk, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that more than 725 people are killed or injured in drunk-driving crashes every day during the holiday season, with more than 25,000 total accidents. On any given day during the year, drunk driving plays a role in about 30 percent of highway fatalities, Around Thanksgiving, and for the rest of the year, that number jumps to 40 percent, tragically culminating over the New Year’s holiday, during which alcohol contributes to nearly 60 percent of roadway deaths.

Make a Plan…

The most important thing you can do to avoid drunk driving this holiday season is to be prepared. “Prepared” can mean different things for different people. You may choose to drink only a very modest amount or not at all, remaining sober and unimpaired for the drive home. Similarly, you may designate a driver who is not drinking at all. In some families, one designated driver may even be willing to make several trips to ensure that everyone is safe. Finally, alternative transportation may be another solution. Call a cab, even if you will need to wait for a while, or use ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft. Whatever the expense may be for a ride home, it pales in comparison to the potential costs of a DUI ticket or injury.

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Orland Park personal injury attorneyFor many people around the country, the Thanksgiving holiday begins on Wednesday and continues through to Sunday—or even Monday in some areas. Most children do not have school, and a large number of adults take time off work to travel, visit family, and spend the holiday weekend with loved ones. Of course, many Thanksgiving celebrations include alcoholic beverages, which means there is a marked increase in the number of potentially intoxicated drivers on the road at the end of the celebration. There a few things that you can do, however, to avoid becoming the victim of a drunk driver’s bad decisions.

Be Alert When Out and About

Whether you are driving yourself, riding with another person, or simply walking somewhere during the Thanksgiving weekend, you would do well to be aware of your surroundings. Pay particular attention to other vehicles, watching for indications that other drivers may be impaired or not focused on the road. Common signs of driver impairment include:

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Orland Park DUI defense attorney, Illinois police, drug userDUI does not just refer to drunk driving. It is against Illinois law to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of any drug, legal or illegal. However, police must have reasonable grounds to believe that you are actually under the influence of drugs.

Officer Lacked “Probable Cause” Based on Questionable Drug Test

This can be a problem when an officer lacks appropriate training and simply jumps to the conclusion that a driver was using drugs without adequate proof. Given that a drug arrest can not only lead to a criminal charge, but also carries a “civil penalty” in the form of an automatic driver's license suspension, such mistakes can be devastating to innocent individuals.

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Orland Park DUI defense attorney, DUI arrestDrunk driving in Illinois carries both civil and criminal penalties. On the criminal side, a person convicted of a first DUI offense faces up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Separately, the Illinois Secretary of State's office can “summarily” suspend the license of any driver who either fails a blood-alcohol test or refuses to take one at a police officer's request.

A summary suspension is a civil matter. This means the Secretary can suspend your driver's license even if you are never charged or convicted of a criminal DUI offense. Additionally, while you can challenge a civil summary suspension in court, the state's burden of proof is much lighter than in a criminal prosecution.

License Suspension Upheld Despite Police Losing Evidence

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Orland Park criminal defense attorney, DUI chargeNormally an Illinois police officer must have probable cause to stop you on suspicion of a DUI. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects all individuals against “unreasonable” seizures by the police. However, what if an officer stops to speak with you for another reason and subsequently discovers evidence that suggests drunk driving?

Court Reinstated Driver's License Suspension

The Fourth Amendment does not apply to “consensual encounters” with the police. In other words, if you speak to the police voluntarily, and not under coercion or detention, you cannot later invoke the Fourth Amendment to claim any evidence obtained against you was an illegal search. Of course, it may not be obvious to you at the time that an encounter was “consensual.” Consider the following case in point. 

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Orland Park criminal defense attorney, prescription drugsAlthough DUI is usually associated with drunk driving, Illinois law actually prohibits operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of any drug or controlled substance. This can even include a legal prescription drug. To avoid a DUI conviction, a defendant must prove not only that he or she had a valid prescription, but he or she also used the drug in a manner that did not prevent him or her from driving safely.

Driver Must Prove Xanax Did Not Impair His Driving

In a recent Illinois case, police arrested a man for DUI after blood and urine tests revealed the presence of alprazolam in his system. Alprazolam, better known as Xanax, is a prescription drug used to treat anxiety disorders. The defendant held a lawful prescription for Xanax, with instructions to take two pills per day.

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breathalyzer tests in Illinois, Orland Park DUI lawyerBeing pulled over, no matter the reason, is always an unnerving experience. If you are pulled over under the suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI), it is possibly one of the most serious crimes a driver can face when it comes to breaking the law behind the wheel. The crime is severe, and the consequences can be tragic, especially when the offense could have been prevented entirely by taking a cab home or calling for help.

You must make a choice.

If you are an Illinois driver who has been pulled over due to suspicion of operating under the influence, one of the first things you can expect to face upon arrest is a breathalyzer test. Although you are confronted by law enforcement to submit to this test, it is up to you to refuse or submit. You have the right to make a choice. It is important to note, however, that many criminal defense attorneys encourage their clients to refuse to submit to the test, due to one major advantage: By refusing, you are preventing yourself from potentially failing it, which can ultimately help you in a court of law. It is important to consult with a qualified attorney if you refuse a breathalyzer test.

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