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Traumatic Dan Ryan Accident In Chicago Injures Numerous Children, 1 Fatally

Joannie Pittman, 47, was the driver of a car that was involved in a major automobile accident along the Dan Ryan expressway in Chicago yesterday, May 31.

The crash closed the expressway and caused heavy congestion of holiday traffic for about two hours Monday night.

She was picking up a chip when she lost control of her car; the car smashed into a guard rail, killing a baby and causing three other children serious injuries, according to officials.

Pittman’s blood alcohol level was .164, more than twice the legal limit, according to prosecutors.

Pittman, 47, of the 5200 block of South Paulina Street, has been charged with aggravated DUI for an accident causing death and reckless homicide. Today she was ordered held on $350,000 bail, according to Tandra Simonton, a spokeswoman for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.

Pittman had bloodshot, glassy eyes and smelled of alcohol, according to a police report. She told authorities that she had been “drinking a lot of beer” at a barbecue and had lost control of the car while “reaching down to pick up a chip.”

Pittman was one of eight people (four adults and four children) in the 1993 Oldsmobile Cutlass as it traveled on the Dan Ryan at about 6:30 p.m., prosecutors said. “The car…only sits 5 and thus none of the children were in safety restraints, much less a car seat,” prosecutors said today in court.

´╗┐The accident was very traumatic for the children, as three of the four children were ejected from the vehicle.

The car crashed into the guardrail at 75th Street and spun around seven times, according to prosecutors. Illinois State Police found open beer cans in the car.

Killed in the crash was 11-month-old Everett Bramlett, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 8:25 p.m.

Other accident victims included an 8 year-old boy who is in critical condition at Comer Children’s Hospital with a lacerated liver. A 3-year-old girl and a 4-year-old girl suffered fractured skulls. Four women were also injured in the crash.

According to the Illinois Secretary of State’s office, Pittman had a valid license and clean driving record except for a 1999 citation for not driving with valid insurance.

More details can be found in the Chicago Tribune story of June 1 titled “Cops: Woman in fatal crash was ‘reaching for chip'”

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) reports the following state of Illinois Fatal Crash Data for year-to-date 2011 (through June 2):

  • There have been 276 fatal crashes involving 303 fatalities
  • There have been 45 alcohol-related fatal crashes involving involving 47 fatalities
  • There have been 80 reported fatalities in which restraints were not used or used improperly
  • In the entire year of 2010, Illinois had 349 alcohol-related fatalities.

Seat-belt and appropriate child restraints are two of the measures that the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) has named as strategies to prevent crash-related deaths and reduce medical and work loss costs. This topic was covered in a May 25 blog post titled “Illinois Ranked as 8th Highest State In Motor Vehicle Cost of Crash Deaths: CDC”

Additionally, the vehicle occupant safety laws concerning Illinois can be found on page 46 of the NHTSA document (pdf) “Summary of Vehicle Occupant Protection Laws”