Intoxication, speeding and distracted driving contribute significantly to motor vehicle injuries and fatalities in Illinois according to anecdotes from state police and local law enforcement and firefighters. Distractions include cell phones, radios and food. One trooper reported that a driver eating fast food rear-ended his patrol car. Distractions also lead to serious accidents, and authorities have noticed an increase in crashes on Highway 158, where five people have died in four months on the road between Belleville and Columbia.

A state police spokesman described the dangers on rural highways. He said that speeding among drivers increases once they are on the open road with only cornfields on either side. Distractions occur when a driver’s focus drifts or turns to a cell phone. In District 11, the most severe car crashes happen on the rural highways, he said.

The five people who died on Highway 158 contributed to the total of 41 roadway deaths that occurred in St. Clair County in 2016. Across the state, fatalities have been on the rise. In 2016, the Illinois Department of Transportation reported 1,081 deaths compared to 998 lost lives in 2015. These numbers represent the highest roadway death rate in nine years.

When a distracted or reckless driver strikes another vehicle, the victim could have a legitimate personal injury claim. An attorney familiar with the process for litigating a car accident could assemble the police report, medical records, witness testimony and opinions of independent experts to document the negligence that caused the injuries. In addition to filing court papers, a lawyer could also negotiate with an insurance company for a settlement or pursue personal assets of the driver to compensate the victim.