Chicago police launch effort to reduce pedestrian accidents at night

Chicago police are launching an effort this week aimed at reducing the number of pedestrian traffic accidents and personal injuries at night.

The city’s enforcement effort targets four city areas with a high number of pedestrian crashes — River North, Austin, Wrigleyville, and 79th Street (Ashland to the Dan Ryan).

If drivers don’t yield to the pedestrians, as required by law, the vehicle will be pulled over by police officers farther down the street and face a fine of $50 to $500, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The program, which launched Monday in conjunction with an effort by the Chicago Department of Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Western Michigan University, includes multiple approaches to address nighttime safety, including an element similar to Chicago’s crosswalk enforcement efforts, which use undercover police officers posing as pedestrians in crosswalks.

Other elements include speed enforcement and an education component involving outreach to bars, restaurants and taxi companies. Small changes such as traffic signal-timing adjustments and new pavement markings may also occur.

The effort is being led by Dr. Ron Van Houten, professor of psychology at WMU, and Richard Blomberg, of Connecticut-based Dunlap and Associates. In a recent study conducted in Miami, Dr. Van Houten introduced procedures that decreased overall crashes by 50% along high crash corridors.

A Western Michigan University study on nighttime crashes in Chicago from 2005 to 2007 found the four zones being targeted had notably high numbers of nighttime pedestrian accidents. Several factors were identified as being related to the crashes, including alcohol use and driver behaviors and inattention.

“When you drive you are more likely to see something if you are thinking about it,” said Dr. Van Houten. “Whenever and wherever you drive, particularly at night, think about pedestrians.”

The program is slated to continue through the fall.

The Chicago car accident lawyers at Abels & Annes have a history of advocacy on behalf of pedestrian accident victims, including a $255,000 recovery earlier this year for a woman struck in a crosswalk while leaving Good Friday church service.

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