Car Accidents Remain A Big Problem In Southernmost Illinois

Vehicles are becoming much safer to operate in the United States: most new models come with automatic lane changing, parking, blind spot sensors, and even automatic braking. These vehicles have saved countless lives in the past several years, but there are still tens of thousands of fatalities every year. This is true in Illinois as well. Here’s what you can do to avoid an accident or lower your insurance.

Car accidents are often life-change — or life-ending — experiences. They shouldn’t be taken lightly. Of course you wouldn’t expect car accidents Los Angeles to occur at a lower rate than car accidents in a small town in Southern Illinois — but sometimes the opposite is true. Those living in rural areas believe that because they live in an unpopulated area, they can take more chances. But still, you can take precautions to ensure you have the best possible chances of avoiding a deadly accident. 

There are three main reasons that car accidents occur. The first and most problematic of the three is negligent driving, such as texting while driving, driving while intoxicated, or simply allowing yourself to get behind the wheel while too distracted to pay attention. The second reason accidents occur is bad weather. For example, there are fewer weather-related accidents in Southern California than there are in Illinois — because we have severe winter weather every year. And the third reason accidents occur is defective parts.

You can’t control that third reason, but you do have some semblance of control over the first two. You can always drive sober. You can always put down the phone while you drive. And you can always avoid driving when the weather becomes dangerous.

Another reason that accidents occur is because of wildlife. Although deer-related accidents usually don’t result in death, it does happen. If the animal survives the impact and ends up in your vehicle, it’ll go wild trying to get out. And if you’re still inside when that happens…You might not survive yourself.

It remains illegal to operate a motor vehicle without using a seatbelt, and many people are killed each year because they choose to ride unencumbered by that annoying band of material. Is it worth paying the ultimate price? We think not. Please remember to strap yourself in.

You can also enroll in defensive driving courses. These are frequently offered at community colleges or high schools, and will often drive your insurance rates lower. Many instructors start each course with one simple phrase: “You bet your life every time you get behind the wheel.” And they’re not wrong. So why take the chance that something might happen by not driving safely? Speeding or other forms of driving do not exemplify “skill,” regardless of what some people might say.

Last but not least, research the vehicle you plan to purchase. Some come with higher safety ratings than others — and you should buy one of those, especially if you’re a young or inexperienced driver. It could save your life.

When Will Southern Illinois Residents Have Access To The COVID-19 Vaccine?

The vaccine is ready and available — and those who want to receive it are getting impatient already. The problem is simple: there aren’t enough vaccines to go around. There won’t be for months. Right now, essential personnel will receive it first. That means police, firefighters, hospital staff, etc. Also at the top of the list are those working or living in nursing homes or those who are 65 and older. 

And that makes sense as the most equitable solution to the COVID-19 crisis. We give the vaccines to those who need it the most first. But the rest of us will have to wait.

Jackson County’s recent health department COVID-19 news release outlined the difficulties in simple terms: “Every person wanting vaccination will eventually be served. Please be patient and continue to take precautions to protect yourself and your family from the spread of COVID-19.”

Nathan Ryder of the Southern Seven Health Department voiced concern about the difficulties in getting the population vaccinated: “It’s hard to sit and wait. The general public doesn’t see that we are out vaccinating all day every day.”

The supply chain is getting better, but it still isn’t enough to ensure that everyone gets a vaccine before the summer months, even in mostly rural Southern Illinois. 

Southern Seven has vaccinated barely 4,000 residents in Alexander, Hardin, Johnson, Massac, Pope, Pulaski, and Union counties. The number will continue to climb, but maybe not fast enough to guarantee that residents will calm down and wait more patiently.

The supply might get a boost if the Johnson & Johnson vaccine receives emergency approval, which is likely in the coming weeks. Others could also be right around the corner.

Vaccinations have been offered at several Walgreens and Kroger locations, but most anyone seeking one of the vaccinations will have to sign up online first. And it can be yet another obstacle to get older people to sign up to come in.

Why Aren’t Bankruptcies Surging In Southern Illinois?

If history tells us anything at all, it’s that we should be experiencing far more upheaval due to the current coronavirus pandemic than we actually are experiencing. Eastern St. Louis is one of the biggest cities in Southern Illinois, but law firms there aren’t seeing as many bankruptcy cases as they predicted when the pandemic first started. Why? The CARES Act didn’t provide nearly enough aid to prevent small businesses from going belly up, so what gives?

One lawyer with Carmody MacDonald PC, Rob Eggmann, said, “It’s not up like we thought they would be, quite frankly.”

Eggmann thinks it might have something to do with the fact that while some businesses have absolutely been hit hard by the pandemic, others have actually done better than they expected.

He said, “It never got to business as usual, but businesses were operating at a higher level here in the summer and fall, until things started getting shut down again.”

Others aren’t so sure. In order to even apply for bankruptcy, you need to be taking in at least some revenue. Partner Wendi Alper-Pressman at Lathrop GPM LLP said, “You have to operationally make money” to be successful even when you’ve failed. “And until such time, bankruptcy doesn’t really help them.”

This is because even bankruptcy has its costs: hiring a lawyer, for example.

And what seems to be the case in St. Louis isn’t necessarily the case all over the country. Statewide, Chapter 11 bankruptcies rose to levels comparable to a decade ago (in the midst of a big recession) after the stimulus funds were used. Using the same index to determine the number of big business bankruptcies filed since last year, we can see that they’re up about 26 points.

Had Congress passed new bailout measures to save businesses hit by the virus, many more might have survived. About 40 percent of recent bankruptcy applications have been turned in by businesses located in the southeast, including those in the states of Florida, Georgia, and Texas, where coronavirus cases have skyrocketed in the past few months.

Bankruptcy attorney Jeremy Johnson explained, “Although it’s difficult for anyone to predict what the economy will do the rest of 2020 and into 2021, we do anticipate filings continuing this momentum as we deal with the fallout from the pandemic.”

Potential good news is on the horizon, however. Should the coronavirus vaccine work as intended — and people actually line up to take it — then we could see a sharp dropoff in the number of COVID-19 cases by the middle of next year. Congress is also attempting to pass a new round of stimulus measures, which should help keep many businesses afloat. 

This comes as new restrictive measures are being imposed all over the country as cases — and deaths — surge drastically. President-elect Joe Biden is expected to implement a mask mandate almost immediately after he is sworn in. Right now, many states have such mandates, but fail to enforce them.

Did You Know Southernmost Illinois Is Known As “Little Egypt?”

Southernmost Illinois is known more for its sightseeing opportunities (Shawnee National Forest, for example) than anything else, but we also have a distinct heritage that involves a number of myths and legends. Many residents might be aware of one of the most popular pieces of lore behind why our region is also sometimes referred to as “Little Egypt.” It all goes back to when the first settlers arrived and began to communicate with Native Americans who already lived in the area.

Because these people were very Puritan (i.e. religious), they often looked for signs from God whenever and wherever they could. It should come as little surprise, then, that they believed the way they lived in Illinois was similar to how ancient Israelites lived in Egypt. Both peoples would travel along waterways to buy and sell grain, which was a staple of life in each community. 

Also, some believe the lore arose because of the geography of the region. The Native Americans created mounds (many of which can still be found throughout the state) which seemed similar to the Egyptian pyramids.

Others believe “Little Egypt” was the result of the many Egyptian names in Illinois. Cities like Thebes, Cairo, Karnak, Goshen, etc. lend credence to this theory, but point in fact: the settlers themselves probably named these cities because of the aforementioned signs and similarities they already saw in the ways of life. So everything is interconnected, we think.

The tradition of comparison to Egypt has lived on throughout the centuries. For example, Southeastern Illinois College was built in 1960, and took a sphinx as the official college seal. Later, the pyramids were used as inspiration for the college’s official logo. The college’s sports teams also decided to use the falcon as the official mascot, which was meant to resemble Horus, who was a falcon-headed god in Egyptian mythology.

Did You Know That Southern Illinois Originally Belonged To Virginia?

Illinois was one of the great American frontiers for a long time after the land was first discovered by new settlers. And it was a strange place with useful resources. There were many natural locations suited to settlement, such as those bordering the Mississippi, Ohio, and Wabash Rivers. The state is relatively flat (in comparison to the eastern and western states) with low marshes, plenty of forests, and easy access to coal. 

Other resources were abundant. Saline County is notable because it was named after the copious amounts of salt in the Saline River. Avid hikers will know to bring their sweat-soaked clothes inside their tents because animals will find the clothes and lick them for the salt. It was for this same reason that the Saline River attracted animals like deer and buffalo. They could approach the banks and simply lick the mud.

The French first arrived in 1673 — and were welcomed by the Native American tribes who already inhabited the area (they had lived there since most likely 12,000 B.C.). They explored the region, established a military foothood, and continued to look for a way to the Pacific Ocean, which was their primary goal. These outposts were useful for those travelling out west or north to Canada.

The French and Indian War changed everything. The French lost the territory — along with the war — when the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763. Afterward, the English ruled for a short period. HIstory buffs will understand why they couldn’t hold the large region right away: The American Revolution terminated their hold in the area. In 1778, a Virginian military expedition landed at Fort Massac in Illinois. He moved on and defeated the English who were garrisoned in the area. The state government of Virginia claimed Illinois as one of its own territories.

Even that was short-lived, because Virginian authorities realized that trying to control such a large, distant land was strategically untenable — and probably not worth the trouble since it was populated by so few people. And Virginia itself didn’t hold the political or military importance it eventually would. Bigger cities like Fairfax, Virginia didn’t even exist yet.

That wasn’t the end of determining who would eventually control the territory. Illinois was added to the Northwest Ordinance in 1787 alongside Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. In 1800, Illinois was part of Indiana. 

Illinois itself attained statehood on December 3, 1818. 

The state has had a checkered history. Because many original settlers were from the south, its political affiliations are split relatively evenly down the middle. During the Civil War, political strife became readily apparent even in the same families. 

It’s worth noting that slavery existed in Illinois, starting with Native Americans before settlers ever arrived, and only ending with the Civil War in all forms. When Illinois became a state, slavery was technically outlawed. But indentured servitude was still allowed, which allowed essentially the same thing.

Top Wineries To Visit In Southernmost Illinois

Southernmost Illinois might not be the first region you think of when you imagine wine, but guess what? Some Illinois wineries offer high-quality tastes and flavors for any palette that rivals anything Southern California has in its scorched fields! We jest, but the climate of Southernmost Illinois is just far more agreeable. If you’re looking for a mild vacation spot to rest and relax (especially now), then here are a few of the top wineries to visit while you’re here.

Don’t want to commit to visiting a single winery? No problem. Hit up the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. Over 35 miles of majestic countryside, you’ll have the option of stopping at no fewer than 11 award-winning wineries. When you’re done with each of those wineries, there is plenty to find in town. Time to explore!

Alto Vineyards is one such winery along the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. Check for hours ahead of time, because the resurgence of coronavirus cases in Illinois could impact your travel plans. Alto is the oldest winery in Southernmost Illinois — and you’ll soon find out why. They have one tasting room in Alto Pass and another in Champaign.

Peachbarn Winery and Cafe rests in an aesthetically pleasing locations alongside plenty of fruit fields and trees inside of Shawnee National Forest. The best part of Peachbarn? The gourmet food is, well, gourmet. Enjoy a bite to eat as you sample new wines.

Kite Hill Vineyards doesn’t just boast great wine: it’s also a renowned Bed & Breakfast where you’ll be comfortable staying overnight. It’s a great starting point if you’re new to the area, and the owners won’t hesitate to help focus your travel plans before sending you off to the next winery. There’s great food to boot!

Von Jakob Winery & Brewery combines the best of both worlds. Wife a wine lover, husband a beer lover? No problem! Both palettes are very much covered here, and the food is divine. Von Jakob is near Carbondale. This is a stunning location with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, forests on the exterior, and huge orchards.

Who doesn’t like a waterside view? Check out the Cache River Basin Vineyard & Winery in Belknap with restaurants and cabins on site. There are stylish bedrooms, great views, a sauna and hot tubs! The winery plans a number of expansions in the near future, including a walking trail and zip line. A lovely bench now sits atop a nearby hill so visitors can take in the view before or after a tasting!

Car accidents occur most often due to distracted driving and driving while drunk. Please be safe. Do not drink and drive!

Conventions Industry Might Be Returning To Southernmost Illinois In 2021

Conferences and conventions make up a big part of niche entertainment in the United States. Some only occur once a year at one location. Others travel to multiple locations to ensure that as many people can participate as possible. Usually, these events cater to a specific group of people with specific interests. But all together, the industry accounts for about $100 billion in cash flow every year. Not surprisingly, the industry was completely closed for most of 2020 thanks to the novel coronavirus.

Reopening might be easier in even the hardest hit states, such as Florida and Texas. In these warmer climates, it’s easier to keep events outside where sanitizing surfaces and keeping people six feet away from one another is no problem. 

Executive director Mark Tester of the Orange County Convention center in Orlando, Florida said, “I’m very excited to be getting groups back.”

According to the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, 64% of cons and conferences have been canceled since March of 2020. Executive Vice President Cathy Breden said on behalf of the organization, “Shows are watching closely to see what each is doing.”

They all want to get back into the game, but not until officials are sure it’s possible to accomplish safely.

Southernmost Illinois isn’t the most popular spot for cons, but our residents don’t mind traveling north if that’s where the action is. McCormick Place in Chicago was supposed to host 12,900 people for a conference by the International Manufacturers Technology Show. The loss in revenue for the eventually cancelled event is estimated at a whopping $24.7 million.

Why was it canceled? Illinois has a reopening plan that occurs in phases, and a specific set of conditions must first be met before an organization can hold a large gathering — whether that gathering is indoors or outdoors.

The plan says, “The conditions that must be met for the implementation of phase 5 feature either the availability of a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus or a highly effective treatment protocol, neither of which are expected to occur in the coming months.”

At least two vaccines are citing the probability of near-complete efficacy in reducing the chance of coronavirus transmission, but only peer review and the scientific process will let us know for sure. And even if those two vaccines are effective, that doesn’t mean they can be mass produced in time for spring events. Most fans of their favorite cons will have to wait a little bit longer for these larger gatherings.

It’s possible that certain smaller, limited events will begin operating by the end of the year, however.

Sun Trust Robinson Humphrey writer Barry Jonas said, “While this could suggest meeting planners are still holding out for a potential return to normalcy post-vaccine, we could see cancellations accelerate as the scheduled event date approaches.” 

But most organizers will be waiting until the last minute to hold an event or cancel. 

Will Southernmost Illinois Residents Vote For Joe Biden Or Donald Trump?

The numbers are pouring in — and the word is that early voting and voting by mail will likely lead to record turnout in the southern areas of Illinois. Chicago almost always votes blue, but what about the rest of the state? Southernmost Illinois votes red. Will our residents continue this trend in 2020 to propel Donald Trump to an Illinois victory? Most models predict a resounding Biden win on or shortly after Election Day, but mostly because of turnout in Chicago and its suburbs, which are increasingly likely to lean blue.

Voter Tresa Collins said, “I prayed about it. God answered my prayers, and here I am. I prayed about voting, because I want God’s will for America.”

Collins is a 90-year-old voter who sees this election as more important than usual, but she voted early due to the pandemic. She added, “I feel that it’s our duty as an American to vote. That’s why I’m here, because I know it’s a dangerous time. I’m trying to do all that my government tells me to do to protect myself. The rest is up to the good Lord.”

Williamson County Clerk and Recorder acknowledged the difficulties keeping everyone safe in 2020, and requested all early voters wear masks — but turning away American citizens who want to vote but choose not to wear a mask could lead to legal action, and the county knows it. That’s just one more reason why voting early makes more sense. 

Many parts of Southernmost Illinois are still expected to swing toward Donald Trump, but polls suggest that Biden has ebbed away at Trump’s base of support. The incumbent has put off many voters with his penchant for lying on camera, his attitude to international relations, and his ineptitude in handling the coronavirus pandemic here in the United States.

Is Voter Fraud A Problem In Southernmost Illinois?

Many voters — especially those who vote Republican — are worried about the possibility of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. In Illinois, only 40 cases of voter fraud have been documented since 2000, which makes it extremely unlikely that voter fraud could turn the tide of an election. Bipartisan committees have long since acknowledged that widespread voter fraud in American elections simply does not exist. Trump’s own FBI director contradicted the president’s voter fraud scare tactics. 

But that hasn’t stopped the president from continuing to sow doubt about the authenticity of an election that he seems poised to lose by a landslide.

Some residents wonder if allegations of voter fraud are more or less likely because of the impending financial crisis due to coronavirus, which resulted in many people losing their jobs — and health insurance. Credit card debt relief attorney Ronald Samuel said, “People think that the next president will make or break this economy, and they’re dead set on voting one way or the other. Many of my clients worry that fraud is a big problem in 2020, but our associates know that widespread fraud is a myth and our problems won’t really go away no matter who’s in office.”

Voter fraud does exist, however — and in the highest of places. A widowed election judge who lived in Southernmost Illinois filled out a ballot for her deceased husband in 2016, voting for Trump. She was charged with voter fraud.

Cases like that have led to an increase in the number of inquiries about what happens if someone casts an early ballot and then dies. Some states allow the ballot to be counted while others do not accept its authenticity. Many advocates of allowing these ballots to be counted contend that the deceased were American citizens at the time of their death with the ability to vote because voting was already open — so why shouldn’t their votes be counted?

Others argue that the point is moot either way. Election officials have no way of knowing that a person who already cast a ballot has since died, making it very unlikely that these ballots are actually tossed. Why argue about something that no one can change?

But these “dead voter” allegations help fear mongers sow more doubt into an election. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said, “The ‘dead voters’ is used as a false narrative, a pretext for changes in some states to how they register voters or count ballots when the data shows otherwise.”

And it’s true that dead voters are often mentioned whenever someone alleges voter fraud. How often do we hear Trump say that millions of deceased individuals managed to cast ballots for Hillary in 2016? 

Southern Illinois District of Illinois U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft acknowledged the fact that even though voter fraud may not be widespread, people do have the right to know where and when it happens. 

Weinhoeft said, “Every citizen must be able to vote without interference or discrimination and to have that vote counted without it being stolen because of fraud. The Department of Justice will always act appropriately to protect the integrity of the election process.”

What Are The Longest Trails To Hike In Southernmost Illinois?

The weather is about to take a turn for the worst — freezing temperatures, wind, rain, sleet, snow, you know the drill — which means this next month marks your last chance to get outside to enjoy everything Mother Nature has to offer. That’s not to say you can’t venture into the woods during winter, but not everyone is built to endure the cold. Here are the best trails to explore before autumn chill really sets into your bones.

Trail 049 is a loop that extends for over ten miles. That’s a full day for most of us. Begin your hike in early morning at the East Trigg Trailhead. You’ll want to mark Millstone Lake on your map, because that’s destination number one. From there you’ll find the target Trail 049. Turn toward Jackson Falls. From there, you have a number of options — But looping back to the River to River Trail will take you home.

Want to go farther? No problem. The River to River Trail is actually 160 miles out-and-back. Research the American Discovery Trail if you want to explore even beyond. This trail marks a great opportunity to walk through the Shawnee National Forest, which is Southernmost Illinois’s claim to fame. It passes through a number of wildlife sanctuaries and state parks, including Crab Orchard. Be careful, because many segments of the trail cut through private property. To avoid trouble with the locals, stay on trail. A great thru-hiking opportunity for newbies, too.

Ever biked or walked along the popular Tunnel Hill State Trail, a rails-to-trail creation? Because it was built with trains in mind, the elevation change is minor. Walking, you’ll barely notice. Biking could be harder. The trail extends about 50 miles with a terminus in Harrisburg and the other in Karnak. Want more information? Check out the trail headquarters in Vienna City Park.