Traffic Violations in Chicago

Traffic Violations in Chicago

You would think a citywide decline in traffic violations would be a good thing for the City of Chicago, but that is, apparently, not the case.

Chicago's traffic camsMayor Rahm Emanuel approved the use of cameras to catch speeding vehicles and those running red lights in the City of Chicago, justifying the practice by focusing placement of the cameras near schools and community parks.

These cameras contributed to the expectation of over $100 million in income for the City from fines paid by Chicago area residents for these motor vehicle infractions filmed by cameras strategically placed all over the city. The City of Chicago “earned” $100 for every flash of the camera showing a traffic violation and the people spending the city’s money are feeling the absence of those funds.

The drivers in Chicago caught on immediately and exhibited to Mayor Emanuel their ability to drive within the speed limit, as well as their tendency to stop at red lights!   This display of good driving skills has resulted in a drastic reduction in the number of fines for violations from camera-related traffic offenses and a $50 million shortfall in the city’s anticipated budget for 2015.

The City of Chicago’s attempt to create a lucrative new source of revenue by employing cameras to catch and film traffic violations completely backfired when the people responded by paying better attention while driving and obeying the city’s traffic laws.

Critics insist that using cameras for catching traffic violations does nothing to make our roadways safer and only accomplishes the addition of income to government coffers.   In Chicago and across the country, drivers on roadways in areas where those cameras are used are choosing not to contribute to that “fund.”

Illinois Law Regarding Gun Ownership and Medical Marijuana

Illinois Law Regarding Gun Ownership and Medical Marijuana 

Medical marijuana regulators in the State of Illinois have dropped a proposal that would have banned medical marijuana patients from owning or possessing firearms.

After months of public feedback, the Illinois Department of Health formally filed rules regarding the state’s medical marijuana program, which is one of the strictest in the nation, whereby the agency removed rules originally proposed that would have required medical marijuana users and their caregivers to forfeit their rights to gun ownership and relinquish their Firearm Owner Identification cards before being placed on the State’s medical marijuana registry.

Although it is still illegal under Federal law for anyone who uses marijuana or other “controlled substances” to own or possess a firearm, medical marijuana advocates applaud the State’s decision saying “Anything that makes it less burdensome for the patients is always a good thing.”

The new rule not only allows medical marijuana users to be gun owners, but also makes it less expensive for prospective patients by dropping the medical marijuana registry fee to $100 and allowing veterans and disabled folks to pay only $50 for registration.

Under the new rules, prospective owners or operators of dispensaries or cultivation houses would have to pay a $5000 non-refundable application fee and anyone who wants to open a marijuana growing operation will be required to prove liquid assets of at least $500,000.

The new rules now go to the State’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules for review and approval after 45 days of public comments and suggestions.

Chicago Personal Injury and Fire Fighters

Chicago Firefighters

Firefighters are a unique and devoted group of people who generally live half of their lives in a fire station somewhere, grocery shopping, cooking and eating meals and sharing their firehouse homes with their colleagues until the alarm sounds and they are jolted into the reality of their jobs.   They leap into action, donning their turnout gear in record time, fire up the trucks’ engines and head into the heart of whatever fire has erupted. They work hard and are devoted to their occupations, risking their lives regularly as part of their careers.

Firefighters in the Chicago area went on strike in 1980 because of new guidelines that were implemented reducing the number of staff required to be on hand in fire stations, without considering the overtime pay such minimum staffing standards would generate. All these years later, the City’s contract with firefighters dictates that at least five firefighters are required to man every firefighting vehicle, but the City’s Mayor, Rohm Emmanuel, wants to reduce that number to four employees per vehicle, eight total, in fire stations that have both fire engines and trucks (“double houses”), which has met with great resistance from the Chicago Firefighters Union. In addition to the reduction in numbers of new hires required by the budget, many older firefighters are retiring, further complicating the understaffing problems of the City’s fire department.

This understaffing has resulted in millions of dollars being spent by the City to defend discriminatory and other undefined “legal issues” related to the lack of hiring new firefighters which, in turn, has not only contributed to the City’s inability to hire new firefighters, but also required the City to spend more than $40 million dollars this year alone for overtime compensation of firefighters the City does employ, which is more than double the amount authorized in the City’s budget for overtime spending.

After many meetings, defense of costly discrimination lawsuits filed by women who were denied jobs because of their inability to meet strict physical standards (that have now been abolished) and the retirement of approximately 245 firefighters at the end of 2013, the Chicago Fire Department is finally now conducting firefighting academy classes for new employees, which it hasn’t done for 8 years. The City intends to conduct a series of classes of approximately 150 students, each beginning at the half-way point of the previous class, to alleviate the runaway overtime spending that has gone from over $13 million in 2011 to $40 million in 2013. This will hopefully resolve the understaffing problems, which have plagued the City of Chicago’s fire departments for years and drastically reduce the enormous amounts of money the City has been paying for overtime work performed by firefighters. Which in turn will help with some of the Chicago Personal Injury claims.

What Illinois Can Learn From Colorado

What Illinois Can Learn From Colorado!

Six months after Colorado became the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, the numbers are starting to pour in and the news is good for the State of Colorado (as well as the State of Washington, which also legalized pot).

marijuana drug chargesThe legalization of marijuana in Colorado has resulted in the opening of about 100 retail marijuana shops and the creation of almost 10,000 jobs statewide in the cultivation, sales and distribution of legal marijuana.   Marijuana-related sales are expected to total approximately $1 billion during 2014, resulting in approximately $10.8 million in tax revenues, a good portion of which goes to public schools in the state. In Colorado, medical marijuana is subject to a 2.9% sales tax and recreational pot is taxed at the rate of 12.9%. Where as in Chicago it’s still against the law. Read More about a Chicago drug lawyer.

The New York Times reported that “Because of the lag in reporting many health statistics, it may take years to know legal marijuana’s effect – if any – on teenage drug use, school expulsions or the number of fatal car crashes.”   Some statistics may not be known, but some are:

  • Fact:       crime is down 10.1% in the City of Denver from the same period last year, with violent crimes dropping 5.2%.
  • Fact:       marijuana sales have generated $10.8 million in tax revenues, with $1.9 million going directly to improve Colorado public schools.
  • Fact: $9 million is being designated for research into the efficacy of marijuana.
  • Fact:       thousands of jobs have been and continue to be created in the cannabis industry.
  • Fact:       home values in Colorado are up 8.7% in 2014.
  • Fact:       legal pot has not tarnished Colorado’s brand or image.
  • Fact:       six months after legalization, 54% of Coloradoans remain in support of legal marijuana.
  • Fact:       since January 2014, the Colorado State Patrol reported that the number of people pulled over for driving while under the influence of marijuana have accounted for only 12.5 percent of all DUI citations.

Law enforcement officials predicted “the apocalypse” if Colorado legalized marijuana for adults over the age of 21. Six months into legalization, however, those individuals have lost credibility since legalization has not caused an increase in adverse or criminal behavior. In fact, the State of Colorado has seen a huge drop in pot-related arrests, resulting in estimated savings of $12 to $40 million per year in law enforcement and court-related costs. Also, over the past decade, the State of Colorado averaged 10,000 arrests and/or citations for under-age minors in possession of marijuana and that number has been reduced to 900 arrests as of the end of June 2014.

According to a recent report by John Gettman, on a national level, criminal justice expenditures for marijuana-related enforcement total $7.6 billion each year, with $3.7 billion of that amount going to law enforcement, $853 million to courts and $3.1 billion going to corrections.

Forfeiture laws have been quite lucrative for law enforcement agencies across the nation and legalization of pot in Colorado and Washington has caused those agencies to refocus their efforts on preventing out-of-state distribution of the product that is legal in those two states. This has resulted in cops outside the States of Colorado and Washington pulling-over drivers simply because their cars display Colorado or Washington license plates.

Sixty-nine year old Colorado resident Darien Roseen filed a lawsuit in the District of Idaho claiming that a Gem State Trooper used “license-plate profiling” as a tactic to unlawfully detain him and search his vehicle for marijuana. Idaho State Trooper Klitch initially refused to state a reason for pulling over Roseen, but later claimed he was stopped for not signaling a turn into the rest area where he was pulled-over and detained and for bumping into two snow covered curbs, both of which claims were contested by Roseen. After 8 law enforcement officers wasted 3 hours searching in vain for drugs in Roseen’s vehicle, he was issued a citation for careless driving and was released from custody, along with his vehicle. Thereafter, Roseen filed a lawsuit seeking general and punitive damages against the Idaho law enforcement agency. More of these types of lawsuits can be expected, if law enforcement continues to engage in “license plate profiling.”

Overall, the great social experiment of legalizing marijuana in the States of Colorado and Washington is working well and proving that legalization of marijuana does not cause more crime and that legal pot produces jobs and creates tax revenues, all of which benefits the citizens who foot the bill for America’s failed war on drugs, specifically marijuana.

Chicago Deadly Teen Drivers

100 Deadliest Days for Chicago Teen Drivers

The sense of freedom a Chicago teenager feels when he or she finally gets a driver’s license is probably their most exhilarating right of passage into adulthood. Unfortunately, however, more than 12 young people between the ages of 15 and 19 die every single day in automobile crashes. In fact, more teenagers die in the United States from injuries sustained in automobile accidents than from any other cause of death (including homicide and suicide) and they are more vulnerable during the three months of summer, for a variety of reasons.

Contributing factors are more free time, recreational driving with friends, staying out later, driving faster than the posted speed limit and not wearing seat belts.

Scientific studies have found that our brains aren’t fully developed until around 25 years of age, which leaves many young people with an “invincibility complex” that prevents them from exercising caution in certain situations and very often results in severe injuries or death.

This fact explains the main reason for Chicago teenage fatalities in car accidents, which is not talking or texting while driving, but the fact that many do not wear seat belts.   Over 2,400 teenagers were killed in automobile accidents during 2012 and more than half of those fatalities were attributed to not buckling up. These findings are supported by research done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Safety Council. General Motors sponsored a survey of 1,000 teens between the ages of 13 and 19 to determine why teens aren’t buckling up and to understand their perceptions about safety when they are riding in cars as passengers.

Statistics show that passengers account for 44% of teen fatalities and 1 in 4 teenagers indicate they do not wear seatbelts and the main reason they don’t is simply because they forget or it’s not a habit they’ve adopted. According to the “Teens in Cars” study, teenage fatalities peaked in 2002 at over 5,000 deaths and, while the number of teen traffic deaths has dropped by 56% from that peak, the percentage of teenage fatalities from not utilizing seat belts has remained the same.

The United States began enacting seat belt laws during the 80’s and early 90’s and those laws vary from state to state. New Hampshire is the only state that does not require adults to wear seat belts, although there is a provision that covers all passengers and drivers under the age of 18. Every other state in America requires the use of seat belts for everyone in a motor vehicle, with 33 states having primary laws (meaning a cop can stop a motorist and issue a citation for not wearing a seat belt) and 16 states have secondary laws (meaning that law enforcement can only issue a citation for not wearing a seat belt if there is also some other violation).

Adults face the same risks as teenagers while driving, but they have much more experience to minimize those risks. Experts say there are specific things you can do to help protect your teenager(s) from accidental injuries and/or death in motor vehicle crashes.

  • Set a good example by driving the way you’d like your teenager to drive, i.e., fastening seat belts, observing speed limits and other traffic signs, including full stops at all stop signs.   Your kids have learned from your example their entire lives and they will learn your driving habits.
  • Practice often and ride beside your teenagers, even after they get their license to see how they are progressing and to offer advice.
  • Make driving a privilege that your teenager must earn by illustrating their ability to handle the responsibility that comes with driving.
  • Sign an agreement between parent and teen that defines all expectations regarding a teen’s driving privileges. An example can be downloaded on the Internet.
  • Let other parents know how you feel about enforcing driving rules and determine what driving rules apply to their teenager(s). Enforcing rules can be difficult when friends’ parents do not enforce them.   Make sure your child’s friends’ parents know where you stand on teen driver safety.

Diligently following the above suggestions can go a long way in protecting your Chicago teenager when they venture out to drive on the congested roadways that make up these United States. For a Chicago Personal Injury lawyer. click here