For even the most experienced drivers, Illinois highways and interstates can be nerve-wracking. You clutch the steering wheel as cars and trucks fly by on your left or brace yourself to pass slow-moving traffic to your right. As we follow the road rules amid all that Chicago-area traffic, we find ourselves asking which lane is the safest for driving on the highway?
Illinois Highways are Dangerous
In 2019, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois had 1,009 fatalities on the roadways. Of those fatal crashes, 499 occurred on Illinois highways or interstates. As of August 7, 2020, this year is turning out to be slightly less dangerous, in part because fewer people are driving as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, Illinois has seen 557 roadway fatalities, with 254 of those occurring on highways and interstates. In other words, Illinois drivers should remain alert for potential danger on highways.
Most Common Causes of Highway Accidents
The most common causes of accidents on Illinois highways are:
1. Distracted Drivers
In Illinois, distracted drivers account for anywhere from 25 to 50% of accidents. This category of drivers doesn’t just include motorists trying to text, fiddle with the radio, or navigate a cell phone map. Distracted drivers can be rubberneckers watching something on the side of the road, trying to eat while driving, or preoccupied with other passengers in the car.
2. Driver Fatigue
The riskiest time for encountering a tired driver on the road is between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m., and these drivers cause more than 100,000 accidents nationwide each year.
3. Driving Under the Influence
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2003 and 2012, 3,866 people died in crashes involving a drunk driver. Shockingly, at the time of the CDC’s report, 2.2% of Illinois drivers indicated that they’ve driven after having had too much to drink within the last 30 days.
5. Vehicle or Equipment Malfunction
Sometimes accidents happen when vehicle equipment fails. If a driver fails to maintain a vehicle properly, it can have consequences on the roadway. If a vehicle’s tires are too worn or not properly inflated, it takes longer to stop in the event of an emergency, particularly with large trucks or commercial vehicles. If a driver doesn’t maintain the brakes, obviously that can be dangerous as well. In some cases, a manufacturing defect can cause an accident. For example, if the latch on a hood fails and the hood flies up while driving, a driver can crash.
Safest Highway Lane
Determining the safest lane for driving on the highway or interstate is a matter of some debate. Consider your basic three-lane highway:
- – Right Lane: The right lane is the slowest and seems the safest. But this lane is also the most crowded, has cars exiting and entering a highway or interstate, and sometimes encounters obstacles and stopped vehicles on the right shoulder.
- – Middle Lane: The center lane seems to be the most hemmed in, with cars on both sides. But the center lane also gives a driver the most room to move if they need to avoid a road obstacle.
- – Left Lane: The left lane is the fast lane and, in theory, should have the fastest moving vehicles. It seems less safe, but it also typically has fewer cars if drivers are correctly using the lane only for passing.
While Roadtrip America recommends driving in the center lane for safety, the statistics don’t back-up middle lane safety. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Crashworthiness Data System, the safest lane seems to be the left lane with the fewest crashes. However, because of higher rates of speed, left lane accidents tend to result in more severe injuries and deaths. In the end, the right lane is the most dangerous, with entering and exiting cars leading to the highest accident rate.
Aurora and Chicago Car Accident Attorney
If you have been in a car accident on the highway, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries or property losses. Give us a call at 630-898-7800 or contact us online. The experienced attorneys at Cullotta Bravo Law specialize in personal injury law and excel in litigation. They have decades of experience helping injured people in Illinois recover the compensation they deserve.