In Chicago, one of the most common causes of accidents is alcohol impairment. While more adults in Chicago report using alcohol than people nationally, fewer report binge drinking, which refers to consuming at least 4-5 alcoholic drinks in 2 hours—roughly the amount of alcohol consumed to reach the legal impairment limit of .08 grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood.
While fewer people engaging in binge drinking is encouraging to city traffic officials, drunk driving crashes still happen frequently throughout Illinois, resulting in hundreds of deaths and injuries annually.
What Is the Impact of Alcohol Impairment on the Ability to Drive Safely?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that a person dies in the U.S. due to an alcohol-related traffic accident every 45 minutes. The reason alcohol impairment is so dangerous, not only to drivers but also to everyone sharing the roadway with an impaired driver, is because of the substance's effects on the brain. Contrary to popular belief, these impacts do not begin when the driver reaches the legal impairment limit; they begin with the first drink.
Some of these dangerous effects include:
- Reduced visual functions, such as the ability to track a rapidly moving target on the road. These effects are noticeable at a blood alcohol level of .02, equal to about one drink in an hour.
- Reduced ability to perform multiple operations simultaneously, such as surveilling the road for obstacles while watching for light changes.
- Difficulty steering the vehicle or responding appropriately to driving emergencies, which occurs after two to three drinks within one hour.
- Reduced concentration and short-term memory loss happen when someone reaches the legal impairment limit.
- The inability to control one's speed or lane position.
- A reduced ability to detect a change in traffic signal lights.
- A decline in the ability to brake at appropriate times.
- Poor coordination in the muscle groups and body systems required to operate a vehicle safely.
- The inability to make good driving decisions, such as controlling one's speed or granting the right-of-way to others when required.
According to the national activist organization, Responsibility.org, 30 percent of all fatal crashes in Illinois result from alcohol impairment. A driver with at least a .15 blood alcohol content causes nearly 70 percent of these fatalities.
Where is Binge Drinking Most Common in Chicago?
Binge drinking accounts for most DUI accidents in Chicago, as the act involves consuming four to five alcoholic drinks in one hour, surpassing the legal impairment limit.
Binge drinking is more common in some areas of the city than others. For example, binge drinking rates are highest in the Lakeview and New Center neighborhoods, known for live entertainment, dancing, and an artsy, cultural vibe. The West Town area is one of the city's up-and-coming hot spots and also sees significant binge drinking behavior. The West Garfield Park and Clearing neighborhoods have high rates of binge drinking.
Among the most common places where people go to drink in Chicago are:
- The 12-mile stretch of Clark Street from Rogers Park to Chinatown, with around 17 drinking establishments for each mile and more than 200 overall.
- North Milwaukee Avenue, from the Northwest Side to West Town, which has more than 130 businesses with tavern licenses.
Chicago Alcohol Impaired Total Crashes Statistics
What Types of Accidents Are Caused by Alcohol-Impaired Driving in Chicago?
Alcohol impairment deficits the skills needed for driving safely and can result in almost any type of accident.
Here are some types of accidents often associated with drunk driving in Chicago:
- Head-on collisions occur when the front of one vehicle contacts the front of another. Head-ons are often the result of wrong-way driving. One deficit from alcohol impairment is the difficulty of maintaining a single lane. An intoxicated driver can easily slip into an opposing travel lane, causing this type of accident.
- Broadside (T-bone) collisions occur when the front of one vehicle collides with the side of another. This type of accident is most commonly the result of a driver failing to yield the right-of-way at a stop sign or red light. Another deficit caused by alcohol impairment is difficulty recognizing changes to traffic signals and the inability to exercise good driving decisions, such as yielding at an intersection.
- Rear-end accidents occur when the front of one vehicle collides with the rear of another. These accidents are often the result of excess speed or following too closely, both of which are common driving behaviors of alcohol-impaired drivers.
- Sideswipe accidents occur when the side of one vehicle collides with the side of another. This type of accident happens when a driver makes an improper lane change. As mentioned, alcohol-impaired drivers often struggle to maintain a single travel lane.
- Single vehicle accidents where the driver collides with a bicyclist or pedestrian or an object such as a parked car due to the driver's failure to stay in their lane, maintain a safe traveling speed, or provide proper surveillance: all difficult tasks when intoxicated.
Seeking Compensation After a Drunk Driver Injures You
Drunk driving is a crime in Illinois, and accidents caused by drunk drivers are often among the most serious due to the excessive speed and recklessness often exhibited by alcohol-impaired drivers. If a drunk driver injures you in Chicago, you can seek compensation for your injuries through the state's personal injury claims process. This process often begins when the injured party hires an experienced accident attorney to help them with their claim.
A car accident attorney's initial service is to thoroughly investigate the accident to determine all liability sources and the liability insurance policies they have to compensate the injured party. The availability of a liability insurance policy is crucial, as insurance pays almost all personal injury claims.
After determining liability for the accident, the attorney will value the claim. Contrary to popular belief, a claim's value depends not only on the claimant's medical expenses for their injuries or repairs for their vehicle. However, these two expenses are essential to the claim. Other expenses factor in as well, including wage loss or even loss of future earning capacity if the claimant's injuries result in permanent disabilities that will prevent them from being able to earn an income. Other factors considered in the claim's value are the injury's severity, the at-fault party's recklessness during the accident, and the inability of the claimant to enjoy activities and hobbies as they did before the accident.
Filing the Claim
Your attorney will file a personal injury claim as a demand to the at-fault party's insurer. The insurer can accept the demand, deny the claim, or make an offer to settle the claim for less than its established value. If the insurance provider makes a settlement offer, do not be surprised at how low the offer is.
Insurance companies generally try to pay as little as possible for claims. However, having an experienced personal injury attorney assisting you with your claim means having someone who understands the process and can negotiate with the at-fault party's insurer to increase their offer.
Filing a Lawsuit
If the at-fault party's insurance provider fails to compensate your claim fairly, you can file the claim as a personal injury lawsuit in civil court. A judge or jury will determine liability and compensation in a court case.
People must file most drunk driving accident lawsuits within two years of the accident. This filing deadline is the Illinois personal injury statute of limitations and is the most critical deadline for your claim. Failing to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations will generally result in a lost ability to use the court process when seeking compensation.
Without the ability to use the court process, claimants generally are unsuccessful in getting the insurance provider to offer a settlement because there is no longer a legal ramification if they don't.
However, settlement negotiations do not have to stop after you file the lawsuit. In fact, most personal injury claims settle after filing a lawsuit when the insurer wishes to avoid a trial's increased expense and uncertainty. A settlement agreement can even occur after the trial begins.
Your attorney will continue to entertain settlement offers on your behalf while preparing the claim for trial, such as filing motions, deposing witnesses, arranging for expert testimony from medical or accident professionals, attending pre-trial conferences, and creating evidence exhibits. During the trial, your attorney will provide additional services, such as examining witnesses, presenting evidence, and delivering opening and closing arguments.
Yes, You Can Afford to Hire a Chicago Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer
In television and movie portrayals of legal matters, there is always a courtroom and mention of high price retainers for hiring effective legal counsel. These depictions do not apply to personal injury attorneys. Personal injury attorneys resolve most claims before trial and use a billing method that enables anyone who needs assistance to have access, regardless of their financial status.
The contingent fee billing method allows you to hire an attorney, receive legal assistance with your claim, and wait to pay for legal services until the claim successfully resolves through a negotiated settlement or a court award. At the end of your case, your attorney will receive the proceeds of your settlement or award on your behalf.
They will deposit the funds in a trust, and from that trust, they will deduct a percentage per the provisions of the contingent fee agreement you signed when you formally hired them. They will use some of the proceeds to satisfy any medical liens placed on the award by your creditors, such as health care providers or group health insurers.
If a drunk driver injures you, let a car accident lawyer evaluate your case for free.