OAK BROOK (May 26, 2020) – While the wide-open highways and traffic-free commutes may be a slight silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic, are the clear roadways actually making driving more dangerous?
Safety advocates and police are concerned about the spike in crash fatality rates and increasing reports of reckless driving charges across the country, and Illinois is no exception. Reckless driving in Illinois is generally defined as “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”
Typical examples of reckless driving include traffic offenses like erratic driving, driving excessively over the speed limit, not using turn signals, swerving, and anything other behaviors considered negligent driving that may cause great bodily harm.
Illinois driving law also categorizes using any incline, such as a railroad crossing, to make the car airborne as an example of reckless driving. Chicago-area police, as well as other areas of Illinois, are seeing these trends increase dangerously.“Excessive speeds and reckless driving have become more prevalent across the nation”“Excessive speeds and reckless driving have become more prevalent across the nation due to less vehicles on the roadways,” Bartlett, Illinois police Deputy Chief Geoffrey Pretkelis said.
Itasca-based National Safety Council released a report last week that seems to back that up. According to the study, the rate of crash fatalities was up 14% in the U.S. and 11% in Illinois in March 2020 when compared to March 2019. The study measures deaths per 100 million miles driven.
Crash-related deaths were on the decline in the past two years, according to the council, and these most recent figures have upended those numbers.
“A big part of this is likely an increase in risky driving during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Ken Kolosh, director of the council’s statistical reporting and statistical estimating systems. “Some drivers are seeing the open roads as opportunity to speed and engage in other risky driving behavior.”
While crash-related deaths nationally were down 8% in March compared to that month last year, the decline failed to keep pace with the 18% reduction in miles driven.
How police are taking action
With the arrival of Memorial Day weekend and potential lifting of some stay-at-home restrictions next week, police officers are focusing their efforts on keeping reckless drivers off the roads.
Bartlett police are teaming with departments in Elgin, Streamwood and Hanover Park, as well as the Illinois State Police, to launch a traffic enforcement and education campaign. It will focus on speeding, driving under the influence, distracted driving and other behaviors and traffic violations that lead to crashes, especially along busy thoroughfares such as Route 59 and Route 20.
“We’re trying to make sure the public can travel safely and focus on dangerous driving behaviors that result in injuries,” Pretkelis said.
Consequences for Reckless Driving
Burdening essential health care workers is a serious consequence of reckless driving, but it’s also important to be aware of all the legal penalties involved in a reckless driving charge.
In Illinois, the consequences of a reckless driving conviction are higher than you may expect. It’s a Class A misdemeanor, which can potentially result in up to 364 days of jail time, a maximum fine of $2,500, and points added to your driver’s license. Based on the Illinois Point System, if you already had points added for violations within the same 12-month period, this reckless driving conviction could mean a driver’s license suspension.
There is the possibility of an alternative reckless driving penalty, like being placed under supervision instead of the charge being on your driving record. This involves a fine and attending Traffic Safety School, but you only have one chance to be eligible for supervision. This means that if you get another reckless driving charge or a DUI charge, supervision is off the table.
Insurance rates may also be affected if you have a charge of reckless driving. If you are considered a higher risk driver, insurance companies will charge a higher premium so they can cover the cost of the risk.
This rise in Illinois reckless driving is dangerous for everyone. Avoiding risky driving behaviors is one way we can all do our part. Obeying traffic laws and staying out of car accidents, and therefore hospitals, allows health care workers to focus their efforts on treating COVID-19 patients.
When to Contact an Accident & Injury Lawyer
Many accident victims injured by reckless driving can have a lengthy and painful road to recovery with overwhelming medical expenses, loss of wages, and/or permanent disability. If you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident, there are various State of Illinois laws that can help you receive compensation. Please contact the law office of Palermo Law Group at (630)684-2332 for a free consultation with nationally recognized car accident lawyer, Mario Palermo, regarding the best approach to the legal issue of obtaining compensation for your injuries.