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Posts from the Driving Category


Just in Time for Halloween: The Illiana is Becoming a “Zombie Highway”

Screencap of the Walking Dead TV show

IDOT’s own studies showed that few people would drive on the Illiana Tollway because steep toll rates would be required to cover construction costs. Image: Walking Dead/AMC

A new filing in the court case against the Illiana Tollway – a proposed 47-mile highway through farmland and nature preserves that would cause exurban sprawl and lead to Illinois jobs being lost to Indiana — indicates that Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner may actually be in favor of the project. In recent years it looked like Rauner was making moves to kill the project, but now it appears the Illiana is becoming a so-called “zombie highway” project that just won’t die.

Here’s a rundown of how Rauner previously indicated that he was killing the project. In January 2015, the newly elected governor suspended spending on non-essential capital projects, including the Illiana. In the first week of June 2015, he said the Illinois Department of Transportation would remove the Illiana Tollway from its capital plan.

Two weeks later a federal judge halted the planning of the new tollway by ruling that the required Environmental Impact Statement was invalid because the study used the circular logic that the tollway would be needed because of new housing that would be developed along the corridor… due to the construction of the highway. In September 2015, the U.S. DOT dropped their appeal of the ruling, effectively pulling support for the project.

Now here’s how the state is either keeping the Illiana on life support or else trying to keep the zombie under wraps. In July 2015, Rauner authorized spending $5.5 million to “wind down” the project, and to pay for some litigation fees.

In April this year, the Indiana DOT said that they would pay for rewriting the Environmental Impact Study. However, IDOT spokesman Guy Trigdell said “the approach in Illinois has not changed” and “we are not pursuing the project.”

Read more…


Days After Drivers Kill and Maim Cyclists, Trib Op-Ed Calls for Bike Crackdown


Ron Grossman

After Anastasia Kondrasheva, 23, was fatally struck on her bicycle by a right-turning truck driver in Roscoe Village on September 26, the Tribune ran an editorial noting that this tragedy should remind motorists to watch out for bikes on the road. This reflects the paper’s evolving coverage of traffic safety issues, which has generally improved during the last year.

However, the Tribune continues to run irresponsible “bikelash” opinion pieces from time to time. For example, in early September the paper ran an op-ed by DePaul communications teacher John McCarron in which he suggested that drivers shouldn’t be required to check for cyclists before making right turns.

The timing of the latest of the Trib’s latest anti-bike screed is especially poor. Four days after Kondrasheva’s death, and a week after Danielle Palagi, 26, was struck on her bike by another trucker near the Illinois Medical Campus, leading to the amputation of her foot, the paper ran an op-ed by Ron Grossman that portrayed bicyclists as a safety menace.

It’s not the first time Grossman has written an ill-informed bikelash article for the Tribune. Two years ago he proposed periodically giving pedestrians a holiday from the perceived bike threat by closing Chicago streets to cyclists. What would a day without bikes actually be like? It would be even louder, more congested, and more dangerous than a typical day.

In last Friday’s article Grossman called for a police crackdown on lawbreaking cyclists. “I live around the corner from Wells Street, with its heavily traveled bike lanes,” he writes. “Yet I’ve never seen a cop pull over a bicyclist who pedaled right through a nearby stop sign, and there are plenty. I’ve yet to see a biker ticketed for running a red light, a common sight anywhere in Chicago.”

Of course, Chicago drivers also do their fair share of running stop signs and blowing stoplights. The difference is, when you do these things while piloting a 3,000-pound vehicle, rather than a thirty-pound one, it’s easy to kill other people. That’s one reason why local police officers usually don’t view ticketing relatively harmless behavior by cyclists as a worthwhile use of their time.

Read more…


Hundreds Gathered at Memorial for Anastasia, Who Died Biking on Monday

Photo: Liz Farina Markel/Tipping Point Photography

Anastasia Kondrasheva’s family mourns at her ghost bike memorial. Photo: Liz Farina Markel/Tipping Point Photography

Note: Streetsblog Chicago will be on vacation on Monday, October 3, and will resume publication on Tuesday.

Over 300 people came to the intersection of Addison Street and Damen Avenue in Roscoe Village yesterday evening to pay their respects to Anastasia Kondrasheva and her family, friends, and coworkers. There were so many people that a handful of police officers diverted east-west vehicle traffic while letting CTA buses pass the somber scene.

Kondrasheva, 23 years old and a health coach at Harken Center, was killed in a “right hook” crash on Monday morning after being run over by a truck semi-trailer whose driver was turning right from Damen onto Addison.

Anastasia Kondrasheva

Anastasia Kondrasheva

The vigil was co-organized by Rebecca Resman, Elsbeth Cool, and Kristen Green, none of whom knew Kondrasheva. Resman and Cool cycle daily with their children and founded Chicago Family Biking. Green recently founded Ghost Bikes Chicago, and arranged for a ghost bike to be installed at the southeast corner for Kondrasheva.

Kondrasheva’s family declined to speak to the press and to those gathered. Alese Affatato said she was speaking on behalf of the family said that Anastasia babysat her daughter for six years, and remarked that “[Anastasia] felt life on her bike, she loved biking in the city, this is a beautiful way to honor her.”

Resman spoke to rally the crowd saying, “This [fatal crash] is everybody’s problem,” she said, adding, “I want to urge everyone here today to demand better…and in the days and months ahead, we hope that you will all join us to organize and demand safe streets now.” Resman and others are discussing future organizing steps on the Facebook event for last night’s memorial.

Mourners place candles at Anastasia's ghost bike

Mourners place lights at Anastasia’s ghost bike.

Kondrasheva’s death follows a string of fatal crashes this summer with commercial vehicle drivers. Two others happened similarly. The drivers of trailer trucks turning or merging right ran over and killed Virginia Murray and Lisa Kuivenen in separate crashes in August. Two additional bicyclists have died in crashes with commercial vehicles. Blaine Klingenberg was hit by a tour bus driver in June, and Francisco Cruz was hit by a panel van driver in September. The driver who hit Cruz didn’t stay behind, making it a hit-and-run crash.

Active Transportation Alliance is asking people to sign their new letter, a Vision Zero call to action, that asks the “mayor, Chicago City Council and relevant city agencies to immediately put into place proven strategies that can prevent more fatalities due to crashes involving large vehicles.” John Greenfield published a column in the Chicago Reader yesterday advocating for the use of side guards on trucks.

When commenting on articles about traffic fatalities, please be mindful of the fact that family members and friends of the deceased person may be reading the post.


Reported “Dooring” Bike Crashes Dropped Significantly from 2011 to 2014

The absolute and proportional numbers of dooring crashes in Chicago have gone down between 2011, when the Illinois Department of Transportation started collecting this data, and 2014.

The absolute and proportional numbers of dooring crashes in Chicago have gone down between 2011, when the Illinois Department of Transportation started collecting this data, and 2014.

Four years of data on reported dooring crashes in Chicago show a decrease from 2011, when the data started being collected by the state, to 2014, the most recent year for which crash data has been released. A dooring crash occurs when someone in a car opens their door into moving traffic without looking, resulting in a collision with a bicyclist.


The new taxi sticker design.

The database is maintained by the Illinois Department of Transportation separately from their main crash database, and holds fewer details about each crash, which also makes it more difficult to map.

In 2011, there were 337 reported dooring crashes, comprising 19.4 percent of all reported bike crashes in Chicago that year. In 2014 there were 202 reported dooring crashes, accounting for 11.0 percent of all reported bike crashes in Chicago. That’s a decrease of 66.8 percent from 2011 to 2014. See a full table of the data below.

When a person in a car opens a door on a cyclist, the result can be fatal, even if the cyclist never actually makes contact with the door. In recent years several people been seriously injured or killed while biking in Chicago. In 2008 graphic designer Clinton Miceli, 22, was doored by a driver on the 900 block of North LaSalle and run over and killed by a second driver. In 2012 attorney Neill Townshend, 32, swerved to avoid being doored near Oak and Wells and was fatally struck by a truck driver. In 2013 Dustin Valenta, a courier and actor was doored by one driver at 1443 North Milwaukee, then run over by another motorist who fled the scene.  This month, a 20-year-old man was critically injured in the same manner in Portage Park.


Buffered bike lanes encourage bicyclists to ride outside the door zone. Photo: John Greenfield

Dooring and “near dooring” is illegal in Chicago. Section 9-80-035 of the municipal code states, “No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic…” In 2013 the city raised the fine for dooring a cyclist from $500 to $1,000.

The large drop in reported dooring crashes could be the result of several factors:

  • The installation of protected bike lanes that make it almost impossible to door a cyclist.
  • The proliferation of buffered bike lanes, which provide more space for cycling. One study showed that people cycling in buffered bike lanes position themselves slightly further away from the doors of parked cars than those biking in non-buffered lanes.
  • Better awareness of the issue. While there hasn’t been a formal dooring awareness campaign by the city, other than the recent requirement that taxis have “LOOK!” stickers installed in their windows, there have been numerous media reports about dooring crashes.
  • The larger dooring fines. Note that the $1,000 fine is more than the penalty for a motorist who causes a non-dooring bike crash.

When I shared this data with Active Trans advocacy director Jim Merrell he responded, “In the absence of a more rigorous analysis, we’d assume this reflects an actual decrease associated with better bike infrastructure and increased awareness among the public.”

“We have heard anecdotally that reporting can be inconsistent, so it is certainly possible the decline could be attributable to less reporting,” Merrell added. “On the other hand, maybe reporting has increased and the decline in crashes is even bigger! We really just don’t know.” Merrell said he hopes more analysis of crash data comes out of the city’s Vision Zero process.

I haven’t been able to obtain data on the number of citations police officers have issued for dooring crashes. Justin Haugens, a Streetsblog Chicago contributor, has sent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the Chicago Police Department, and the Chicago Departments of Transportation, Administrative Hearings, and Finance, as well as the County Court Clerk, IDOT, and the Illinois State Police – all have responded that they don’t have that information.

Crash data for 2015 should be available by November.

Year Total non-doorings Total doorings Total bike crashes % which are doorings





















This data is provided by IDOT based on crash reports from local police jurisdictions. The department does not endorse or review third-party analyses of its data. Download the data.


Sliding-Scale Fines Could Make Chicago Traffic Enforcement More Equitable


Illinois state trooper Chris Jones monitors southbound traffic on the Dan Ryan expressway. Photo: Michael Jarecki

[Last year the Chicago Reader launched a weekly transportation column written by Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield. This partnership allows Streetsblog to extend the reach of our livable streets advocacy. We syndicate a portion of the column after it comes out online; you can read the remainder on the Reader’s website or in print. The paper hits the streets on Thursdays.]

Automated traffic enforcement has hit plenty of potholes in Chicago, ranging from red-light cameras installed in dubious locations during the second Daley administration to the Redflex bribery scheme. Still, numerous studies have proven that properly run red-light and speed-camera programs prevent serious traffic injuries and deaths. In recent years Chicago has taken steps to reform the city’s automated enforcement system, and recent statistics indicate the cams are doing their job to prevent violations and serious or fatal crashes. Automated enforcement may also reduce racial profiling: cameras report driver behavior, but they don’t care who’s behind the wheel.

But there’s one aspect of Chicago’s traffic-camera program (and traffic enforcement in general) that’s problematic from a social justice standpoint: the fine structure is regressive. Chicago doles out a $100 ticket for running a red light or speeding at 11 mph over the limit. Since the tickets cost the same whether you’re rich or poor, lower-income people are charged a higher percentage of their income than rich people are. A $100 penalty may be about right for making middle-class people think twice before breaking the rules of the road. But for a person who’s barely making ends meet, it could be a major hardship.

“Maybe it slows some people down,” said Tamika Butler, director of the LA County Bike Coalition, in a recent interview with City Lab. “But for others, it just builds on years of mistrust. It stands between a mom putting food on her table and paying rent.”

In Chicago, failure to pay an initial $100 ticket on time can lead to additional late fees. Accumulating three or more tickets, or two at least a year old, can lead to your car being booted. If that happens, you must pay all existing fines and penalties plus a $60 boot fee to liberate your car. If the car stays booted for 24 hours, it can be towed and impounded. Towed cars are assessed a fee of $150, plus a storage fee of $20 per day for the first five days, and $35 per day after that. It’s easy to see how all these costs could result in a financial crisis for a family living below the median Chicago household income of $47,408. (And while car ownership can be a money pit for lower-income folks, in parts of the city with poor transit access, residents may feel that driving is their only practical option.)

Read more…


Woman Killed in Yesterday’s Crash Identified as Anastasia Kondrasheva, 23


Anastasia Kondrasheva. Photo: Facebook

The young woman who was fatally struck by a right-turning flatbed truck driver yesterday while biking in Roscoe Village has been identified as Anastasia Kondrasheva, a 23-year-old health coach at an Edgewater health facility.

At around 7:50 a.m. Kondrasheva was biking north on Damen Avenue to her job at Harken Health, 5244 North Broadway, according to authorities and coworkers. When Kondrasheva reached Addison Street, a 38-year-old man driving a flatbed truck made a right turn in her path, striking her.

The cyclist went under the wheels of the vehicle and was killed instantly. An autopsy was scheduled for today, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

The driver, whose vehicle bore a sign for Westmont Interior Supply House, a west-suburban construction supply company, was cited for failure to exercise due care for a bicyclist in the roadway, according to Police News Affairs.

Kondrasheva’s boyfriend Adrian Juarez told DNAinfo he became worried after a Harken Health employee called him and said Kondrasheva never arrived at work. Then he saw news reports about the crash.

“I saw the picture and it was her bike,” Juarez told DNA. “This was the route she always took.” He added that he was with Kodrasheva’s family. “We can’t believe it…it’s just shocking.”

Read more…


Today’s Crash, Nick Fox’s Passing Bring 2016 Chicago Bike Death Toll to Six


This morning at 9:30, police had blocked off Addison at Damen following the fatal bike/truck crash. Photo: John Greenfield

Tragically, last week’s epidemic of bike fatalities and serious injury crashes in the Chicago region, has continued into this week. This morning a young woman was fatally struck by a flatbed truck driver in Roscoe Village. She was the sixth person to be struck and killed by a commercial vehicle driver while biking in Chicago and Evanston since June, and the third to be run over by a right-turning flatbed truck driver.

And early Sunday morning, well-liked Garfield Ridge pizzeria worker Nick Fox passed away from injuries sustained from a bike/train crash in June. That means that six people have died from bike crashes in 2016.

According to police, at around 7:50 a.m. today the female cyclist, believed to be in her 30s, was biking north on Damen Avenue south of Addison Street. According to the city’s bike map, this stretch of Damen has “shared-lane markings” – bike-and-chevrons symbols designed to remind motorists to watch out for cyclists.

Police said that the driver of the northbound flatbed truck, carrying construction supplies, made a right turn, heading eastbound onto Addison, and ran over the woman. Witnesses said the woman was killed instantly.


The flatbed track from this morning’s crash. Photo: John Greenfield

According to an ABC news report, witness Carole Cifone said the truck driver immediately jumped out of the vehicle and tried to aid the woman. “The driver was so distraught, they took him away in an ambulance,” Cifone said. “He was just bent out of shape by what had happened [and the fact] that he was responsible.”

Officer Nicole Trainor from Police News Affairs said an investigation of the crash is ongoing and the driver has not yet been cited. According to the Cook County medical investigator’s office, the victim’s name and age had not been released as of early this afternoon.

As of 9:30 this morning, police had closed off two blocks of Addison east of Damen, and the victim’s body still lay in the street covered with sheets. The bike was not visible, but photos from other news reports show a badly damaged road bike.

“Any vehicle needs to constantly be aware of cyclists on the road,” a bike rider named Meg told ABC. “This is a [road with shared-lane markings]. There’s no excuse.”

DNAinfo reported that about ten people were waiting for the #152 Addison bus at the intersection when the crash occurred, and they stayed on the scene to provide testimony to investigators.

Read more…


Diverter Test on Manor Avenue: “People Have to Change Their Habits”


Looking southeast at Wilson/Manor. Barricades prevent cut-through motor vehicle traffic on Manor but allow two-way bike traffic. Photo: John Greenfield

Last night a group of about 130 people gathered to voice their questions, comments, and concerns, about a car traffic diverter that the Chicago Department of Transportation is testing in Ravenswood Manor. On Monday, CDOT set up two barricades on Manor Avenue at Wilson Avenue that diverts car traffic on Manor approaching Wilson onto Wilson, and prevents vehicle turns from Wilson onto Manor.

CDOT expects the diverter to reduce car traffic volume on Manor, which will “complement” the neighborhood greenway they’re building on Manor from Montrose to Lawrence to connect two riverfront multi-use trails. The neighborhood greenway is a set of traffic calming elements, including raised crosswalks at the entrances and shortened crosswalks through the use of bumpouts, to make it more comfortable to walk and bike on the street.

Mike Amsden, assistant director of transportation planning at CDOT, said that the test will end November 18, and that he’s been at the intersection three days this week to monitor car and bike traffic and talk to residents. David Smith, a consultant at CDOT, has also been out there each day. Amsden said that this is the highest number of people he’s seen attend meetings about city transportation projects he’s worked on.

The people who came to the meeting voiced a wide range of ideas about the impact of the barricades, ranging from an unexplained suggestion that the situation is making the intersection a more dangerous place, to commendations of CDOT for actually trying to resolve certain issues and that the test should run its course.

The Manor neighborhood greenway builds two new connections to Horner and Ronan Parks, and adds biking and walking infrastructure to an on-street segment highlighted in green.

The Manor neighborhood greenway builds two new connections to Horner and Ronan Parks, and adds biking and walking infrastructure to an on-street segment highlighted in green.

The test involves counting car and bike traffic volumes and driver speeds at 15 locations starting two weeks after the test begins, to allow for an adjustment period. The count locations are within Ravenswood Manor and outside the neighborhood, defined by Sacramento on the west, Lawrence on the north, Montrose on the south, and the river on the east.

Amsden said the diverter was designed to address three goals:

  • Reduce car traffic on Manor Avenue
  • Simplify the intersection of Manor, Mozart, Wilson
  • Create a comfortable corridor for people walking and biking along Manor to access the CTA station and businesses, Ronan and Horner Parks, and the future river trail south of Montrose

In response to the question, “is there another option that might be trialled to figure out the best way” Amsden said that “we came up with several options, we felt this option did the best of addressing those goals.”

In between the range of opinions were questions about what other options are if the diverter turns out to be a failure, dissatisfaction about the process, and a claim that setting up the diverter amounted to closing down public streets and was illegal. “Just to be clear,” Amsden said, “we didn’t close a street.” Read more…

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Judge in Bobby Cann Case Rules Search Warrant for DUI Blood Draw Was Valid


A man rides by the memorial to Bobby Cann in a curb-protected bike lane on Clybourn. Photo: John Greenfield

It’s been more than three years since an allegedly drunk, speeding driver took the life of Groupon employee Bobby Cann. The criminal case against driver Ryne San Hamel has been progressing slowly as the defense tries every possible strategy to have charges dropped and evidence ruled inadmissible, but there was a positive developments at yesterday’s court hearing.

On the evening of May 29, 2013, Cann, 26, was biking at the intersection of Clybourn Avenue and Larabee Street when San Hamel, 28, struck and killed him. San Hamel was charged with reckless homicide and aggravated DUI, as well as misdemeanor DUI, reckless driving, and failure to stay in the lane.

In July 2015, Judge William Hooks dismissed the reckless homicide charge at the behest of the defense team, but last April the Cook County state’s attorney’s office announced that they won an appeal to have the charge reinstated. Recently the defense, led by celebrity lawyer Sam Adam Jr., has tried to have the blood work that was done to test San Hamel’s blood alcohol content level ruled inadmissible.

Yesterday Judge Hooks affirmed that the search warrant used to have San Hamel’s blood drawn was admissible, meaning the blood work can stay in the case for now, according to Catherine Bullard, who was dating Cann at the time of his death and attended the hearing. Hooks will determine whether the blood work itself is admissible after the next motion is processed.

“We thought that yesterday the lawyers for each side would present oral arguments about whether the search warrant for the blood tests was constitutional, and we anticipated that Judge Hooks would rule on the matter at a following hearing,” she said. “The judge surprised us all by ruling yesterday.”

Adam immediately filed a motion to suppress the blood work itself due to alleged chain of custody violations at Northwestern Hospital, which Bullard says is a predictable next step for the defense. The next court date will be October 21, when the prosecution will file its written reply to this motion. Hooks won’t be present. “We expect the next significant hearing, at which oral arguments will be given on the matter and it’ll be good to have people present, to be sometime in January,” Bullard said.

Read more…

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How Can Chicago Make Sure Vision Zero Benefits Communities of Color?


A mural in West Humboldt Park. Chicago has several times as many homicides per year as traffic deaths, which will complicate efforts to implement Vision Zero. Photo: John Greenfield

This article also ran in the Chicago Reader weekly newspaper.

In May 2012 the Chicago Department of Transportation released its “Chicago Forward” agenda, including the stated goal of eliminating all traffic deaths by 2022. That target was inspired by the international Vision Zero movement, which began in Sweden in 1997. It’s based on the notion that road fatalities and serious injuries aren’t simply unavoidable  “accidents,” but rather outcomes that can be prevented through engineering, education, and enforcement.

In recent years the Vision Zero movement has spread to many major U.S. cities, most notably New York, where mayor Bill de Blasio has made it a hallmark of his administration. But it wasn’t until earlier this month that the Chicago announced a formal Vision Zero initiative, starting with a three-year interdepartmental action plan slated for release this fall. The deadline for reaching zero traffic deaths and serious injuries has been pushed back to 2026.

“Every day someone is injured or worse as the result of a car crash on Chicago’s streets—and that is simply unacceptable,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. “These crashes are preventable, and that is why we are stepping up our efforts.”

Local transportation advocates like the Active Transportation Alliance applauded the news. After all, the city of New York has reported that between 2014 and 2015 there was a reduction in all traffic fatalities by 22 percent, with a 27 percent drop in pedestrian deaths (although this summer pedestrian fatalities spiked in NYC).


“Ghost bike” memorial to Hector Avalos, who was killed by a drunk driver near Douglas Park in 2013. Photo: Lorena Cupcake.

But it seems likely the devil will be in the details when it comes to ensuring Chicago’s safety program is a net positive for all residents, particularly those in low-to-moderate-income communities of color.

In these neighborhoods, increased traffic enforcement—especially ticketing for minor infractions a la the “broken windows theory” —may not necessarily be seen as a good thing. Significantly, several high-profile, police-involved deaths of African Americans across the country began with traffic enforcement stops.

Michael Brown was detained for walking in the street, Sandra Bland was arrested after failing to signal a lane change, and Philando Castile was pulled over partly due to a broken taillight. While behind the wheel, Castile had been stopped by police 46 times in 13 years, according to an NPR records analysis.

“One of the pillars of Vision Zero is increasing opportunities for police to apply their biases to street users, aka increased enforcement of traffic laws,” LA-based transportation consultant and anthropologist Adonia Lugo said last year in a widely shared blog post titled “Unsolicited Advice for Vision Zero.” “White people may look to police as allies in making streets safer; people of color may not.”

Lugo also argued that that Vision Zero is an overly top-down approach, rather than one driven by the community, and yet another example of U.S. transportation advocates, who usually look to cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen for best practices, exhibiting “Eurocentric thinking.”

Transportation equity consultant Naomi Doerner echoed some of those concerns in a recent interview with Streetsblog USA. “If we’re going to be giving more investment to police enforcement, it has to be communities telling police how and where and what,” said the former head of the New Orleans advocacy group Bike Easy. “This particular Vision Zero analysis had not been done by the advocacy community. I think that a lot of that really does have to do with the fact that a lot of the organized bike and walk community are not comprised of people of color.”

And rolling out Vision Zero in Chicago will be complicated by the fact that our gun-violence epidemic is arguably a much more urgent issue than traffic deaths. New York had about 330 homicides and 230 traffic fatalities in 2015; Chicago, with less than a third of the population of New York, had 491 homicides last year but averaged only about 110 traffic fatalities per year between 2010 and 2014 (the latest year for which the Illinois Department of Transportation has released crash data).

There have already been more than 3,000 people shot in Chicago this year and over 500 homicides—more than New York and L.A. combined. As such, it’s likely that some residents may feel that channeling city resources into preventing traffic deaths rather than homicides is misguided.

Read more…