Depending on the study, Illinois ranks as either the 9th best or the 11th worst state to drive in. Looking at the methodology shows why. When looking at driver safety, Illinois shines; it’s congestion and road quality that can bring them down. And Chicago.
The Illinois Dept. of Transportation reported that 1 in 4 Illinois car accidents that resulted in injuries happened in Chicago. And the Windy City is no stranger to congestion. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning continues to research ways to improve safety. But too many people overlook the positive impacts of car automation.
Setting a Baseline
One of the most essential steps in statistics is finding a starting point for data. The Illinois stats are grim— increases in the past couple of years were double-digit. But these stats are being compared against the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when few people were on the road. Before the pandemic, fatal car accidents and other events were declining. (Though even one is too many).
As Chicago steadily returns to normal, so have car accidents. And the data collection begins anew. However, researchers can start researching the effects of automation on drivers and safety before the localized accident baseline is established.
Safety Automation in Vehicles
Those of us still tied to cable (or refusing to pay for YouTube Premium) have yet to escape commercials. And these days, they’re full of cars, SUVs, Trucks, and vehicle safety features. In fact, safety features are often the highlight of vehicle commercials these days. Lane departure alerts, pedestrian detection, automatic braking…it sounds like something out of Sci-Fi, though not quite the future promised by Marty McFly.
Self-Driving Cars were once considered a far-off dream, but companies like Tesla have already released the first few models. Of course, automation isn’t perfect, but experts estimate that a complete departure from human involvement in roadways could be achieved within the next few decades— as in 2050. Automated cars may not be taking to the skies as we dreamed of in the 80s, but they will decrease traffic accidents sharply.
Even now, we’re seeing results of the latest vehicle safety features easing a driver’s burden when fatigued. Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear— in this case, a future without traffic accidents.
Looking at the Present
Even with the growing potential of safety automation, drivers still have to worry about the now. Until automation is more than just a study in statistics, Chicago drivers need to know what to do in the event of a car accident.
No one wants to be in a traffic accident. No one imagines it happening to them. But all drivers should accept that accidents can happen to anyone. States certainly do– which is why Illinois has a set minimum insurance coverage into law. Drivers need to ensure they are insured, but they also need to look beyond the minimum.
Your insurance plays a significant role in what happens after an accident, especially if the at-fault driver is illegally uninsured. You need to be sure you can cover repairs— or, if your car is totaled, a new car —in addition to any medical bills. Ideally, the at-fault driver’s insurance takes up most of the expense, but it’s not guaranteed.
The Immediate Aftermath
If you are involved in a car accident in Chicago, the first step is to check yourself for injuries. It may not be safe for you to move. If you are alert but injured, stay in your seat. Otherwise, check on any passengers. If you are safe to move, get to the side of the road or on the sidewalk before calling 911; if you cannot get out of the car, call immediately. No matter the accident, contact emergency services to get a police presence. Once you know they are coming, turn off your engine, get your hazard lights on, pop any road warnings from your emergency kit, and wait.
Note: Beware of tow truck scams. Some predatory drivers will watch for accidents and offer to get your car out of the way, citing the obstruction of traffic and their wish to help. But they might pull your car into a lot somewhere and hold it for ransom.
Police must investigate the scene as-is, so don’t move your car unless they instruct you. The police report will be essential to the insurance claim and any resulting lawsuits. If you and the other car’s driver are uninjured, you need to take this time to exchange information. Police can help with this if you’re uncomfortable. You must exchange names and contact information, insurance companies and policy numbers, driver’s licenses and license plate numbers, and vehicle information. The police report will have proof of date, time, and location. If you can, document as much as you can of the accident in photos.
Whatever you do, do not discuss fault at the scene. Likewise, do not discuss fault with the other driver’s insurance agency. Any admission of guilt can affect the outcome of your insurance claim. For now, focus on documentation: names and badge numbers of the cops, photos of the scene and your vehicle, a copy of the police report, the other driver’s information, and the names and contact information of any witnesses who pulled over.
The Days to Come
The main focus of the immediate aftermath is your health and documentation. After that, it’s time to contact your insurance agency and start a claim. You’ll need to send them all of your documentation. Your coverage level will affect your benefits and how they can help. While most traffic incidents can be handled between agencies, you may benefit from retaining a personal injury lawyer. If your vehicle damages or injuries are severe, or if someone in your car passed away as a result of the accident, then you will want to pursue a lawsuit. However, a lawyer can help you navigate the claims process and negotiations between insurance agencies.
Car accident lawyers in Chicago are well-versed in Illinois At-Fault policies and different levels of lawsuits. They will help ensure you receive the proper compensation, that your rights are respected, and that you can get your life back on track. Choosing a lawyer can be overwhelming, but the three main things to look for are free consultations, no fees without victory, and a successful track record.
A lawyer can advise you on what to say to the other driver’s insurance agency– or handle the discussions themselves. Unfortunately, many insurance companies will try to offer low settlements, and many accident victims accept them without knowing any better. A car accident lawyer will use all the documentation available to help you.
Car accidents can have lasting impacts on everyone involved. Physical, mental, and emotional aftermath can follow you for months. Bills can pile up. Anxiety can spike when you need to get back in the car. Proper compensation is necessary to get the medical care you need: initial treatment of injuries, physical therapy, and counseling for trauma are just examples. Your recovery will be unique to you.
No one wants to be a statistic. No one should be a statistic. And, when it comes to car accidents, hopefully soon, no one will be.