Justice Starts Here

Premier Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Attorneys

Free Consultations | Se Habla Español
Rapoport, Weisberg & Sims P.C.

Illinois Driver Polishing Her Nails In Traffic Found Guilty Of Hitting, Killing Woman; Just One Day Before, The 25th State Passed Ban Cracking Down On Distracted Driving

     On May 5, U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood announced that Wisconsin had become the 25th state in the U.S. to ban texting while driving, calling distracted driving "an epidemic" responsible for killing and injuring thousands of people every year. That statistic is a very unfortunate reality for the family of Anita Zaffke, the 56-year-old woman killed on May 2, 2009, when she was rear-ended on her motorcycle by Lora Hunt, who admitted to painting her fingernails while driving prior to hitting Zaffke near Lake Zurich, Illinois. LaHood's announcement of Wisconsin's driver texting ban came just one day before a Lake County jury found Hunt guilty of reckless homicide on May 6.

     Both the verdict and Wisconsin's texting ban come at a time when the emerging problem of distracted driving is finally under the spotlight. In April, Oprah Winfrey, along with Chevrolet, unveiled a highly publicized campaign aimed at educating the public about the many consequences of distracted driving. Focusing on what she terms "America's New Deadly Obsession," Winfrey created a pledge against texting while driving and encouraged her many viewers to take the pledge and pass it along to friends co-workers. As of May 7, over 314,000 people had done so. In December 2009, President Obama issued an Executive Order prohibiting over 4 million federal employees from texting while driving either job-related or private vehicles. Additionally, the DOT created Distraction.gov, a multi-faceted website featuring public service announcements, resources and statistics related to the consequences of distracted driving. The numbers are mind-blowing:

  • In 2008, there were a total of 34,017 fatal automobile crashes in which 37,261 individuals were killed nationwide; 5,870 people were killed in crashes involving driver distraction, marking 16% of the total fatalities.
  • The proportion of drivers reportedly distracted at the time of the fatal crashes has increased from 8 percent in 2004 to 11 percent in 2008.
  • The under-20 age group had the highest proportion of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes (16%). The age group with the next greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the 20- to-29-year-old age group (12%).
  • Motorcyclists and drivers of light trucks had the greatest percentage of total drivers reported as distracted at the time of the fatal crashes (12%).
  • An estimated 21 percent of 1,630,000 injury crashes were reported to have involved distracted driving.

     Distraction.gov also offers interesting research into why driving while distracted by phones and other gadgets increases the risks of crashes and fatalities, including:

  • Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent. (Source: Carnegie Mellon)
  • Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
  • Using a cell phone use while driving, whether it's hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver's reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (Source: University of Utah)

     While the loss of Zaffke has devastated her family, her son Gregory Zaffke told the Chicago Tribune after Hunt was found guilty that his family does not want to celebrate the verdict, but rather  use it as an opportunity to educate people on the dangers of distracted driving. He has started an activist group called the Black Nail Brigade, wherein members paint the fingernails of one hand black in memory of his mother, and also as a way to start a conversation about how crucial it is to maintain focus and awareness when behind the wheel.

     Wisconsin's texting ban goes into effect on December 1, 2010, marking the halfway point to a uniform, nationwide ban on texting while driving.

     It is encouraging to see so much attention is finally being paid to this subject. With the ever-increasing amount of portable technology and an approaching generation of new drivers who've not known a life without a cell phone, it is important to hammer home the importance of staying focused on the road and fellow motorists, not a text message or an iPod. Surely Ms. Hunt never meant to kill or even hurt Anita Zaffke, but she did, and all it took was one second of bad judgment to do so. Now, all because one person decided to look away from the road for only seconds, two families are forever changed. Let's hope that this new spotlight on the harsh consequences of distracted driving reminds all of us to keep our eyes on the road and our hands on the wheel.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

Recent Jury Verdicts &

$6.4 Million Settlement Medical Malpractice

More Verdicts & Settlements
  • National board of trial academy
  • ABPLA | American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys
  • AV preeminent | Peer rated for highest level of professional excellence 2018
  • The best lawyer in America
  • Super Lawyers
  • America's top 100 high stakes litigators
  • The national trial lawyers top 100 trial lawyers
  • Avvo Rating 10.0 Superb Top rated personal injury
  • American association for justice president's club
  • American association for justice Leaders forum
  • ACBCA American College of Board Certified Attorneys
  • B Injury Board
  • Recommended by peers for leading lawyers network the top lawyers
  • Best lawyers Best Law Firms | U.S.News | 2019
  • The national trial lawyers top 40 under 40
  • The national trial lawyers top 10

*AV®, AV Preeminent®, Martindale-Hubbell Distinguished and Martindale-Hubbell Notable are certification marks used under license in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell certification procedures, standards and policies. Martindale-Hubbell® is the facilitator of a peer review rating process. Ratings reflect the anonymous opinions of members of the bar and the judiciary. Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ fall into two categories — legal ability and general ethical standards.

**Board certification is not required to practice law in Illinois, and the Illinois Supreme Court does not recognize specialties in the practice of law.

What Our Clients Say

  • Just wanted to take a moment to say thank you. I know a lot of hard work, by all of you, went into the preparation of this case and we wanted you to know that it is greatly appreciated. We worried about many things during that period, but one thing we didn't worry about was our attorneys. What a fine team you make! You guys are great! Read More
  • I wanted to touch base with everyone again to express my thanks to everyone involved in the USAir 1016 case for the way the case was handled and the way you treated myself and my family. While I realize that there are other law firms that could have tried the case, I don't believe they could have matched the caring you showed us... Read More
  • How do we thank you for doing such a tremendous job with the lawsuit against Freeport Memorial Hospital?...The day that check arrived I was so nervous, in fact I was a wreck until we had it safely invested. I am not thanking you just as our attorney, but as a very good friend...Read More
  • We would like to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt thanks for the supportive service that you have given our family during the past three years. While we wish that we would not have found ourselves in a situation requiring your services, we are grateful for the sensitive way...Read More
Email Us For a Response

Have Questions? We Have Answers.

Tell us about your case and we’ll get back to you with a FREE case evaluation.

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Premier Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Attorneys

Call 877-216-4213 or Email Us For A Free Initial Consultation

 Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. Review Us

Office Location

20 North Clark Street
Suite 3500
Chicago, IL 60602

Toll Free: 877-216-4213
Phone: 312-445-9160
Chicago Law Office Map

Contact Information