If you live in Chicago or the surrounding suburbs, pedestrian safety is likely a bigger issue than you realize. The overall proportion of pedestrian collisions may be small compared to vehicular crashes but the damage that results is often much greater. For example, in 2014, pedestrian accidents made up only 1.6 percent of all the collisions in Illinois but made up nearly 6.8 percent of all traffic accident injuries and 14.4 percent of all traffic deaths.
Pedestrian safety concerns should be important to our citizens for two primary reasons: first, everyone is a pedestrian at some point in time and therefore may find themselves the victims of a crash, and second, if you use any form of transit other than walking, you may collide with a pedestrian and cause that individual harm, potentially leading to legal consequences for you.
So if pedestrian safety continues to be a problem and one that affects everyone, what can be done to improve the state of affairs in our neighborhoods?
Everyone can take immediate steps to improve pedestrian safety here, whether you are walking or driving on a public roadway. The most helpful thing to do is to educate yourself about the rules facing pedestrians as well as any threats to their wellbeing and attempt to act in a manner as reasonable as possible.
Whenever possible, those who are walking should stick to sidewalks. Fortunately, much of Chicago is lined with pedestrian-friendly sidewalks that make it easy to get around, but some surrounding communities and residential portions of the city are missing these helpful features. If that is the case where you plan to walk, do your best to walk against traffic while staying on the shoulder of the road. That way, you will be able to see oncoming vehicles and they will see you while you keep a safe distance from their lanes of transit.
Similarly, if you are walking, only cross a road or an intersection in a designated crosswalk and only proceed when it is safe to do so. It may be tempting to cross mid-block at times to get to your destination faster but this is an extremely dangerous behavior that causes many collisions every year. Resist the urge to hop across traffic and opt for the safety of a crosswalk instead.
Be prepared for the conditions if you will be walking by planning ahead of time. If it will be dark outside, make sure you opt for lighter colored clothing and/or clothes with reflective materials so that you will be more visible to others. Similarly, if it will be raining, dress in a rain jacket, carry an umbrella, or don your rain boots so that you will not be rushed or distracted by the weather, allowing you to focus on your personal behavior and any threats that may be near you.
If you are driving, realize that your conduct still plays an important role in the safety of those who walk and act accordingly by slowing down, yielding the right-of-way, and respecting the rights of pedestrians. Not only do you risk a traffic ticket if you cause a collision that injures a walker but you also may be held financially liable for the full extent of that walker’s harm, including any medical bills she must endure. Put safety first and realize that preventing a collision is more important than anything else while you drive.
Prior Blog Entry:
Why are Bicycle Accidents So Common in Chicago?, Chicago Car Accident Lawyers Blog, published May 3, 2016.
2014 Illinois Crash Facts and Statistics, Illinois Department of Transportation, Division of Traffic Safety.
Walk This Way! Taking Steps for Pedestrian Safety, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published March 14, 2016.