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Beyond Chicagoland

Traffic Deaths Down 7.5 Percent in Chicago While Rising Statewide

Traffic deaths sign over the Dan Ryan Expressway
Electronic message sign over the Dan Ryan shows the stats in October 2012.

Update: IDOT updated their statistics today which now show that there were 124 fatal crashes in Chicago in 2013, not 120, as initially reported. This represents a decrease from 2012 of 7.5 percent.

Electronic message signs over Illinois highways noting the number of traffic fatalities have been harbingers of depressing news since June 2012, but continue to spur helpful discussions. Illinois adopted a "Vision Zero" goal in 2009, and so did Chicago in 2012, setting out to eliminate traffic deaths within 10 years.

Statewide, Illinois is losing ground: Traffic deaths rose 4.5 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to data culled from the Illinois Department of Transportation, from 957 to 1,000 people, respectively. But Chicago and Cook County bucked the statewide trend and saw a decrease in the number of people killed in car crashes. Will, McHenry, and Kendall counties also saw minor decreases. In Cook County, fatal crashes decreased 7.9 percent, from 252 in 2012 to 232 in 2013.

Among the collar counties, however, fatal crashes increased in DuPage, Kane, and Lake Counties.

In Chicago, fatal crashes decreased 7.5 percent, from 134 in 2012 to 124 in 2013. The Chicago Department of Transportation is focusing on reducing traffic deaths by using speed cameras, putting several miles of streets on road diets (which also reduces speeding), and using "stop for pedestrians" signs and crosswalk islands, among other strategies. While you don't want to draw too strong a conclusion from one year of data, the fact that traffic deaths dropped significantly in the city while rising across the state suggests that Chicago is doing something to move the needle in the right direction.

Illinois Department of Transportation spokesperson Jae Miller said the 2013 numbers are preliminary.

The number of miles driven had been slowly decreasing across Illinois [PDF] and the country, but Miller wrote that they are increasing here and "that usually means more crashes."

Miller noted that "even though the numbers have increased, injury crashes are down by close to 10 percent." She also said that the number of teenagers killed in car crashes is at an all-time low.

Miller said that IDOT is "increasing DUI enforcement efforts among law enforcement agencies and ramping-up messages on drunk driving, speeding, [and] distracted driving." She also mentioned that IDOT will be promoting the new ban on holding cellphones while driving, a law that took effect at the beginning of the year and eliminates the previous town-by-town approach to deterring distracted driving.

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