Pedestrian safety matters to everyone in Chicago because everyone is a pedestrian at some point in time. Most people who frequent the downtown area walk quite a lot. They may walk the streets to get to lunch or simply walk from a parking spot to their office. Others walk from an L station or a bus stop to their jobs or they may walk to Union Station or Ogilvie to head home in the evenings. Even hailing a cab or an Uber ride may require a small amount of walking.
If you ride a skateboard, coast on some in-line skates, use a walker or a wheelchair, push a stroller (or ride in one for that matter), or simply use your feet to get around, you are classified as a pedestrian in Illinois.
Though everyone should be aware of pedestrian safety issues and should act in a manner that limits the number of pedestrian accidents that happen every year, recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) reveals that not enough is being done to keep our walkers safe. Far too many are losing their lives or becoming seriously injured in traffic collisions and the harm that is caused by these events extends to victims’ family members, friends, loved ones, and coworkers.
The NHTSA reports 4,884 pedestrians were killed in traffic collisions in 2014 in America, comprising 15 percent of all traffic fatalities that year. While total fatalities decreased significantly between 2005 and 2014, the number of pedestrian deaths remained relatively constant which resulted in the percentage of pedestrian fatalities increasing. In 2005, pedestrian deaths were only 11 percent of all traffic deaths, an indication that as other forms of fatalities are reduced or eliminated in America, pedestrian deaths continue to occur and affect lives.
Experts express several possibilities for the relative increase in the proportion of pedestrian fatalities in large cities like Chicago as well as across the nation. Chief among them are improvements to the functionality and safety of personal and commercial vehicles on the roadways. As things like forward collision avoidance systems, backup cameras, park assist, and other semi-autonomous driving features proliferate the marketplace of new vehicles, fewer and fewer accidents are occurring due to driver error. This in turn decreases the number of injuries and fatalities that otherwise would have stemmed from those accidents and limits the fallout they would cause. At the same time, advancements in airbags, alternative restraint systems, and the passenger cabs of vehicles have made injuries and fatalities less likely when a collision does happen which in turn is leading to fewer motorists losing their lives.
However, these same advancements have not helped pedestrians much. Often, pedestrians are too small to be recognized as hazards for collision-avoidance systems and safety devices like airbags are designed, in general, to protect occupants of cars and not those outside of a vehicle. This means that pedestrians continue to face vehicles with little or no protection to their bodies, placing them at an extremely high risk for injuries or death in the event of a car accident.
If you walk or drive in Chicago, make sure you do your part to keep all people safe who are near or on the roadways. Slow down, be prepared to yield the right-of-way, and always act in a manner that puts safety first. No matter what legal relief is possible for a victim, it is always best to avoid a collision before one occurs to keep motorists and pedestrians as safe as possible.
Prior Blog Entry:
Nearly 94 Percent of Bike Accident Victims are Injured or Killed in Illinois, Chicago Car Accident Lawyers Blog, published May 31, 2016.
Pedestrians, Traffic Safety Facts, 2014 Data, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, published May 2016.