You've probably heard of distracted driving laws. Now Chicago is also considering banning distracted walking.
Honolulu, Hawaii and San Mateo County, California have already passed distracted walking bans. Several other states are considering doing the same.
What is distracted walking?
Chicago's proposed distracted walking legislation states:
"No person shall cross a street or highway while using a mobile electronic device in a manner that averts their visual attention to that device or to that device's activity."
The proposed law covers the use of devices that are "capable of providing wireless and/or data communication" or of "providing amusement," such as mobile phones, mobile gaming devices and digital cameras.
Violators could be fined $90 for a first offense and up to $500 for repeated offenses.
Pedestrian Deaths in Motor Vehicle Accidents
The distracted walking legislation was sponsored by aldermen Edward Burke and Anthony Beale. Their proposed legislation cites a Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report that found significant increases in pedestrian deaths in recent years.
According to the GHSA report estimates:
- There were nearly 6,000 pedestrian deaths nationwide in 2016, an 11% increase from the prior year.
- Pedestrian deaths represent 15% of total motor vehicle crash deaths, a significant increase from prior years.
- Rapid growth in driver and pedestrian smartphone use may have contributed to increased pedestrian deaths.
Illinois already bans distracted driving. Drivers can face fines and imprisonment if convicted of distracted driving. In addition, if a driver injures or kills someone due to being distracted, he or she can face up to four years in prison and fines of $25,000 or more.
Distracted drivers may also have to pay additional damages if an auto accident injury lawsuit is successfully filed against them.
What does this mean for pedestrians injured in a car accident?
If the distracted walking law does pass, it could raise complicated legal questions.
Illinois law currently uses a "proportionate fault" standard in accident lawsuits. Proportionate fault means that the amount of compensation available to an injured person may be reduced or eliminated based on how much their actions contributed to the accident.
For example, if you are injured in a car accident, and you are found to be 25% at fault for your injury, the damages you receive as a result of a lawsuit could be reduced by 25%. If you are found to be 50% or more at fault, you cannot recover any damages under Illinois law.
So, what might happen if both the driver and the pedestrian were distracted when the driver's car struck the pedestrian? Under current Illinois laws banning distracted driving, it is likely (though not guaranteed) that the driver would be considered more at fault.
If the new law passes, more of the blame for an auto accident could potentially be assigned to an injured pedestrian who broke Chicago's distracted walking law. This could potentially reduce the amount of compensation available in a lawsuit since the pedestrian's own negligent actions contributed to their injury.
Of course, Chicago's distracted walking legislation has just recently been proposed, and it would need City Council approval before becoming law.
Illinois Auto Accident Injury Attorneys
Regardless of whether the new law passes, an auto accident case is usually complicated. Insurance companies and opposing lawyers will work to limit the amount you can recover for your injuries. They may try to show that you were partially at fault and therefore deserve less compensation.
Benassi & Benassi can review all the facts of your case to help ensure that you are fairly compensated for physical, financial and emotional injuries resulting from an auto accident. Contact us today for a free consultation.