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This week, a teenager in Massachusetts was sentenced to one year in jail for causing a fatal car accident while texting. The accident took the life of one man and seriously injured the man's girlfriend. Using cell phone records, prosecutors demonstrated that the teen sent text messages within a minute of the fatal crash. A jury convicted the teen of motor vehicle homicide and negligent operation while texting.

As a car and truck accident lawyer, I have seen just how dangerous distracted driving can be, and texting is one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving. As anyone who has sent a text message knows, to type and read text messages, a person needs to look directly at his or her phone. Thus, when someone is texting and driving, his or her eyes are off the road for at the very least a brief moment. As this case shows, taking your eyes off the road, even if only for a split second, can lead to a devastating accident. I encourage all drivers to avoid dangerous distractions like texting for their own safety and the safety of all others sharing the road.

In response to the deadly crash and subsequent recall of millions of Toyota and Lexus automobiles due to unintended acceleration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing that all automakers be required to design a brake-throttle override system into future vehicles.

These override systems would prevent unintended accelerations by automatically releasing the throttle when the car’s on board computer senses that the brake pedal is depressed, and thus unable to function.

As a car and truck accident attorney in Chicago, I am pleased to see the federal government taking steps to address an important vehicle safety issue. I hope automakers do not resist this key proposal. Particularly as someone who lives in Chicago, with its high volume of traffic, any type of regulation that makes the roads safer is encouraging.

Two years ago, a Chicago dance instructor tragically lost her life when an Amtrak train struck her SUV as she attempted to cross the train tracks in University Park. According to a Federal Railroad Administration report released this week, the train-car crash was caused by members of the Canadian National Railway track crew.

The investigation determined that the crossing-protection system had been turned off by Canadian National track maintenance workers while they worked on track switches in the area. Unfortunately, an order to stop train traffic was lifted and flagmen were removed from the crossing before the warning system was successfully reactivated. As a result, the crossing’s warning system activated a mere two seconds before the train entered the crossing, and the woman’s SUV was struck by the train as she attempted to cross the tracks.

As a Chicago personal injury attorney, I find many facets of the Federal Railroad Administration's report troubling. First, the Canadian National signal supervisor had no training that would authorize him to supervise the crossing in question on that day. Canadian National owes a duty to all motorists and pedestrians who may cross the tracks to provide qualified supervisors to ensure an incident like this does not happen.

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The U.S. Senate recently approved a bill to boost auto safety regulations and strengthen the penalties for automakers who fail to recall faulty vehicles. Over the past year, many organizations have urged Congress to strengthen auto safety measures in light of the sudden acceleration concerns in Toyota cars. In response to these concerns, a provision of the Senate bill raises fines to $250 million, up from about $17 million, for failing to recall vehicles properly. Unsurprisingly, automakers are challenging this provision. Specifically, automakers are questioning the need for new auto safety measures by pointing to statistics that demonstrate the number of road deaths has fallen to its lowest number since 1949.

As a car and truck accident attorney in Chicago, I believe that we should always strive to reduce the number of road deaths in this country. I find it very troubling that automakers are satisfied with the current number of road deaths and do not want to continue trying to reduce this number. We should never be complacent when it comes to automobile safety. I support this Senate bill and hope that its safety measures are successful in reducing the amount of road deaths in the United States.

Four years ago, a 20 year old woman was tragically struck and killed by a driver while crossing the street in the early morning hours. After hitting the woman, the driver stopped momentarily but then fled the scene as others arrived, even though he knew the woman was seriously hurt.

This fatal hit-and-run went unsolved for four years. Yet, last Sunday, the driver came to the home of the victim’s sister and confessed to the accident. The driver asked her not to call the police and quickly left the sister’s house. Luckily, the victim’s sister caught the driver’s license plate before he left and called the detective in charge of the case. The driver was arrested shortly thereafter and is now facing multiple charges in the fatal hit-and-run.

As a Chicago car accident attorney, I feel for her family members who had to spend years thinking the driver that killed their loved one and fled the scene would never be caught. This case highlights the unfortunate fact that some people will do whatever it takes to avoid accountability for the harm that they cause. Unlike this instance, in many cases the wrongdoer never confesses, and thus will never be held civilly and criminally liable to the victim’s family. Sadly, the victim’s family then cannot be compensated for their unimaginably painful loss.

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