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Is there a hidden hazard on Illinois' roads?

The roads and highways here in Illinois were undoubtedly a very busy place last weekend as thousands of motorists traveled to locations both near and far for the Fourth of July holiday. As these motorists made their way to their respective destinations, there's a very good chance their attention was occupied by the traffic around them, conversations with passengers and thoughts about their vacation plans.

The one thing they probably didn't think about as they drove was the road itself, taking it for granted that state officials wouldn't let people drive on roads that weren't in good condition and or otherwise unsafe for motorists.

Interestingly, a recent investigation by a Chicago-based news outlet has found that this may not necessarily be the case, as many roads in the Land of Lincoln may have hidden safety hazards that could cause potentially serious -- or even fatal -- car accidents. 

The hidden road hazards identified by the investigators are the more than 1.3 million reflective pavement markers -- or RPMs -- used in nearly all of Illinois' 102 counties.

If this sounds unfamiliar, RPMs are the small reflector squares dotting the road surface that provide illumination at night and during rainstorms.

RPMs are designed such that the reflector is enclosed within a metal anchoring system that is fixed into the road. The problem, say the investigators, is that the harsh weather extremes here in Illinois -- snow, sleet, rain, high summer temps, etc. -- coupled with road salt, snow plows and semi trucks are causing the metal anchoring systems to deteriorate, come loose and crash into unsuspecting drivers.

"A split second later [the metal] is flying through my windshield and I'm covered in glass," said one unlucky motorist who was struck in Gurnee. "Luckily I grabbed the steering wheel with both hands and I was able to slow down ... This would have killed me. It's got sharp edges and it's a three-pound piece of steel."

For its part, the Illinois Department of Transportation indicates that the RPMs are typically inspected every three years and replaced during road construction. While it says the small number of overall complaints concerning RPMs indicates that they are worth the overall investment, some road safety experts believe that enough evidence has been presented that the agency needs to perhaps reexamine its current policy.

It's important for those who have suffered serious personal injuries or lost a loved one in a car accident caused by the reckless driving of another, or another type of negligence to consider speaking with an experienced attorney to learn more about their options for pursuing justice.

Source: NBC Chicago, "Loose highway markers create road hazards," Tammy Leitner and Lisa Capitanini, July 1, 2014

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