Pedestrian Fatality Tracker: More Deaths This Year Than Last

pedestrian fatalities in Chicago
Pedestrian fatalities from January to July 2014 are up over the same period last year. Data: IDOT, CDOT via Chicago Police Department

More people were killed while walking in Chicago in the first seven months of this year, compared to the same time period last year. Chicago transportation commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld pointed out to the Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Council last week that “this is the first increase since 2009.”

21 people on foot died in car crashes between January and July of this year, versus 18 who died in the same months in 2013. Scheinfeld said that major injuries to pedestrians have also increased, by eight percent over last year’s rate. She noted that the number of miles that people have driven in Chicago has also increased, and suggested that may be a factor in the increase this year.

The 21 deaths this year are still fewer than the 2008-2012 average, Scheinfeld said – and far below the unusually high number of deaths in 2012, when 47 pedestrians were killed in car crashes. Last year’s 29 pedestrian deaths were one-third fewer than the five-year average, and 40 percent below 2012’s death toll.

Statewide, traffic deaths of all kinds are down: 62 fewer people have died in Illinois so far this year, compared to the same time period in 2013. Chicago also seems to fare better than other major cities. According to Smart Growth America’s Dangerous by Design report, there are more pedestrian deaths per capita in the New York City metro area than Chicago – but, since New Yorkers walk more often than Chicagoans, on average a pedestrian there is less likely to get hit by a car. In the Washington, D.C. metro, there are more pedestrian deaths per capita than in Chicago, and a greater likelihood of being hit by a car. The Boston area has a lower pedestrian death and injury rate than the other cities.

Scheinfeld presented the fatality figures as part of a discussion of real-world safety issues facing pedestrians, but the attention given to these life-and-death matters remains woefully inadequate. The meeting agenda allocated just three minutes to report and discuss fatalities. When the commissioner offered the council more time, saying “I’d be happy to go into details,” the council did not take her up on that offer.

If CDOT is going to take Vision Zero seriously, and achieve its goal of having no traffic deaths by 2022, then the Pedestrian Advisory Council needs both more actionable information and more detailed discussion. CDOT should start by making more data available to both the council and the public – including both what’s happening in peer cities, and better reporting on crashes which result in injuries but not deaths. The Pedestrian Plan calls for publishing a website featuring these data in 2015, similar to how the New York Police Department publishes monthly crash statistics with details including causes, injuries, vehicles, and people.

Scheinfeld also can report to the council what CDOT’s post-crash field investigations determined after each fatality. CDOT has done these investigations after deadly crashes, which could include site-specific short and long-term recommendations that might prevent future casualties at these dangerous locations.

  • Brian

    Wow – I guess speed cameras that all of the things CDOT is trying to do to calm traffic isn’t working!
    Hey, here’s an idea – tell people to not step into on coming traffic which is moving at 30 mph, and just expect cars to instantly stop! I don’t care if it’s the state law – the laws of physics say the vehicle will not stop in time. My guess is that pedestrians are stepping out expecting cars to stop like Jesus parting the sea. People need to take responsibility for themselves and only cross the street when it’s safe. If that means waiting for cars to pass, they should do so. Regardless of whether the law says cars my stop. It isn’t always possible. And pedestrians need to understand this.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    This whole “vision zero” thing is a is a load of crapolla. Setting a goal of no pedestrian deaths by 2022? Why that year? Kind of like former mayor Daley’s 10 year plan to end homelessness by transforming/ tearing down public housing and replacing it with some replacement housing and vouchers. Admirable but not attainable. There’s still a waiting list and there will always be one.

    Unless there’s a plan to crack down on every jaywalker, who runs into traffic you will never have zero pedestrian deaths. Now can the city do more? Certainly. But unless there is a plan to ban all vehicles with four wheels, or a plan to spend millions of dollars every intersection its not going to happen. The best thing the city can do is restrpe the fading crosswalks and keep them maintained. That serves to remind drivers to slow down and to pedestrians that crosswalks exist.

  • tooter turtle

    I don’t know where you are, but what I see is not this. Pedestrians are mostly still afraid to step into a crosswalk until no cars are nearby. Drivers mostly play chicken with pedestrians waiting to cross – they approach the crosswalk fast, hoping to cow the pedestrians, and only stop if a brave pedestrian steps in front of them.

  • Like I said in the article reporting on injuries is a better metric to understand what’s really happening on city streets because fatalities are still a rare occurrence.

  • Why are you presuming that every pedestrian who dies in Chicago is someone who ran into traffic?

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    No, I am not assuming every pedestrian who dies in Chicago is someone who ran into traffic. The jist of my comment is that no matter how well the city re-configures/re-design roads, there will always be pedestrian fatalities due to pedestrians running into the road/jaywalking.

    The phrase “manage peoples expectations” comes to mind. If you put out promise that you will have no pedestrian deaths by 2022, how does one reach that without having a heavy crackdowns on pedestrians crossing illegally. I don’t doubt there’s going to be crackdown on drivers too.

  • You slow down the drivers and vehicles.

    There’s no good reason to have 3,000 metal objects hurtling down neighborhood streets at a killing speed. What’s that killing speed? Greater than 20 MPH.

  • Brian

    You’re right- cars should NEVER travel Above 20mph. Who needs to get where they are going in a reasonable amount of time?

  • Brian

    That’s great! People shouldn’t be stepping into the street unless it’s safe to cross! Or cross at a light! And even then- watch out! So many people are glued to their phones, and oblivious to what’s going on around them.
    Combine that with distracted drivers, and it’s a bad combination.
    All I’m suggesting is that people take responsibility for themselves, and don’t step out into the street expecting cars to stop for them, just because the lame say so.

  • Alicia

    And even then- watch out! So many people are glued to their phones, and oblivious to what’s going on around them.

    That’s part of the bad behaviors we want to change. You seem to want to ensure the dangerous status quo.

  • Alicia

    how does one reach that without having a heavy crackdowns on pedestrians crossing illegally.

    Cracking down on people like Brian here who cling to dangerous driving habits, that’s how.

  • Alicia

    Where are you going in such a hurry that is so important it justifies putting peoples’ lives in danger?

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not totally against speed cameras, and I actually believe occasionally moving cameras around may help.

    However, after a couple of years, if there is no direct relationship between the cameras, speed and the ped deaths I believe they may be scaled back unless the city gets so used to the money they can’t give them up.

    If the money from speed cameras was used directly to improve the pedestrian experience, such as striping crosswalks and adding timing improvements at signalized intersections, I honestly believe their would be a lot of support from the public.

    Provide the public with statistics as to how pedestrian deaths occur.
    1) How many deaths are due to turning vehicles (where speed may not be an issue) but inattentive driving is.
    2) How many deaths are due to other crimes happening such as drunk/impaired driving, police chasing a vehicle which hits pedestrians.
    3) How many deaths are due to pedestrians contributing to an unsafe environment such as jaywalking.
    4) How many deaths are due to speeding vehicles.
    5) How many deaths are due to failure to stop at four-ways or controlled intersections.

    Once you understand causation, then you can have remediation.

  • ERT

    How about use the sidewalks?

    I see WAY TOO MANY people walking in the roads when there is a useable sidewalk that they refuse to use. I’ve seen people walking and jogging on roads and streets no matter how dangerous or busy the roads are.

    Pedestrians have more rights on the roads than vehicles do, and if you get hit by a car because you decided to jog/walk on the street, I have no sympathy for you.

  • Rich Evans

    Nice attitude toward your responsibility to see/avoid other road users, which you accepted with the privilege of operating lethal machinery on the roads. Sounds like you could use a Drivers Ed refresher.

  • Unfortunately the state legislation that enabled Chicago to have speed cameras completely disallows “random” camera enforcement. The city is allowed to use mobile cameras as long as the mobile camera site is announced (and signs are added) 30 days in advance, just like a fixed camera site.

  • Jay F

    Who are you texting that is so important that it’s worth stepping in front of moving vehicle for?

  • Alicia

    Whether my text is important or unimportant, or, frankly, whether I’m texting or not, should not affect your ability to watch your surroundings or to drive at a reasonable speed.

    Where are you going in such a hurry that is so important it justifies putting peoples’ lives in danger?

  • johnaustingreenfield

    FYI, Streetsblog NYC recently debunked the widely publicized, but completely bogus stats that “distracted walking accounted for 78% of pedestrian injuries throughout the United States” and “Nearly two million pedestrian injuries were related to cellphone use.”

  • Jay F

    Yea they obviously didn’t visit Chicago.

  • Alicia

    Do you have actual data for Chicago, or are you just going off your assumptions?

  • Jay F

    I have experience because I work in Chicago 5 days a week. They have ads all over trash cans now that say put your phone down pay attention to cross walks and I see it every day.
    You are more than welcome to come to Chicago and collect data if you so choose.

  • Alicia

    You are more than welcome to come to Chicago and collect data if you so choose.

    Sure thing! I’ve been to Chicago many times, and I have another visit scheduled very soon.

  • Jay F

    If someone is driving the speed limit, 35 mph, and you (who is texting) step into oncoming traffic against the light there is no way someone you’re making it.
    Further, whether you are in the right or not you still lose in the situation as you have no cage around you.


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