Thursday, March 22, 2018

Pedestrian Fatalities in Chicago Have Increased Every Year for 5 Straight Years

The Editorial Board of the Chicago Tribune recently published an Editorial asserting that while pedestrian fatalities in Chicago can be reduced through policy changes, the onus is on both drivers and pedestrians to be less distracted and more aware of their surroundings. This assertion has led to extensive discussion among Chicagoans as to just what the responsibilities are for a pedestrian versus a motorist. 

The Chicago Tribune's Editorial Board makes the point that both distracted drivers and distracted pedestrians can contribute to injuries of deaths. This is obviously true. However, what the Editorial Board fails to take into account is how much more vulnerable a pedestrian is than a motorist strapped behind a steel box equipped with an air bag. In addition, the reality is that it is the law throughout the Land of Lincoln that motorists must STOP for pedestrians in a crosswalk. There is no exception for pedestrians who are on a smart phone or looking in the other direction. Pedestrian have the right of way. This law is a relatively recent change from the old law that motorists only needed to slow for pedestrians in a cross walk. The change was made so that there was no confusion as to what "slow" meant and to implement pedestrian-friendly policies. 

Here is the change that was made to the law is in Illinois for pedestrians in a crosswalk:
(625 ILCS 5/11-1002) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-1002) Sec. 11-1002. Pedestrians' right-of-way at crosswalks. 
(a) When traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation the driver of a vehicle shall stop and yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.
One thing is certain: there has been a tragic surge in the number of pedestrian deaths on Chicago's streets. Up every year over the past five years, Chicago saw 46 fatalities in 2017 as compared to 27 in 2013 according to the City Transportation Department. More than 2,000 people are killed or seriously injured in traffic crashes in Chicago each year. An average of five people are seriously injured each day. These numbers are not just seen is the bustling metropolis of Chicago. Nationally, the number of pedestrians killed by cars rose from 4,699 in 2007 to 5,987 in 2016 — an increase of 27 percent.

The City of Chicago considers all traffic fatalities to be preventable and seeks to implement news policies through Vision Zero Chicago. Announced in June of 2017, this three-year action plan uses a data-driven, multi-agency approach for improving traffic safety for all road users with the goals of reducing the number of roadway crashes and eliminating traffic fatalities completely by 2026. Chicago is one of ten Focus Cities in the Vision Zero Network and its implementation comes as pedestrian deaths in Chicago continue to rise. Prioritizing human life and the safety of our streets, Vision Zero pushes for more safety education, intersection changes like curb “bump-outs” to shorten walking distances across streets (as seen in the Loop as part of the LINK system), and encouraging policies and technologies that make for safer vehicles and professional drivers. 

There is no one "magic bullet" that can solve the scourge of crashes involving pedestrians. But any solution must recognize that a pedestrian will always be vulnerable. City and state laws must be enforced and enacted to prioritize the risks facing pedestrians and ensure that pedestrians and motorists are not treated the same. 

Keating Law Offices is the premiere personal injury law firm representing vulnerable users of the roadways. The firm is based in Chicago, Illinois and represents clients throughout Illinois.