CDOT Commissioner: This Year’s Spike in Pedestrian Fatalities “Is Very Troubling”

A minivan driver fatally struck Kiare Woods, 3, as he was walking with his aunt in April.
A minivan driver fatally struck Kiare Woods, 3, as he was walking with his aunt in April.

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Drivers fatally struck 18 pedestrians on Chicago streets by April 30 of this year, according to preliminary Chicago Police Department data released by the Chicago Department of Transportation last month. That’s up from the 2012-2016 average of 12.4 pedestrian deaths during the same four-month period – a 45 percent increase. April was a particularly deadly month, with nine people killed on foot, compared to the five-year average of 3.4 fatalities. Drivers fatally struck another three pedestrians in May 2018, according to media reports, bringing the unofficial total to 21.

Recent pedestrian fatality numbers. Image: CDOT
Recent pedestrian fatality numbers. Image: CDOT

The rise in pedestrian deaths so far this year is in line with a recent national rise in traffic fatalities, blamed on more driving due to cheap gasoline and the improving economy, an increase in cell phone use by drivers, and other factors. There were 132 total traffic deaths in Chicago in 2017, up from 119 in 2016. The number of pedestrians killed also rose last year, with 46 fatalities compared to 44 in 2017 and a five-year average of 38.2 deaths.

According to CDOT, 10 of the 18 pedestrians killed as of April 30 of this year were on High Crash Corridors or in High Crash Community areas, as identified by the city’s Vision Zero Chicago Action Plan. Many of the crashes, and all of the April fatalities, involved drivers speeding who lost control of the vehicle and killed people standing on the sidewalk. 8 of the 18 crashes involved at least one of the five dangerous driving behaviors identified in the Vision Zero plan. In addition to speeding, these include intoxicated and distracted driving, running red lights, and failure to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.

Many of this year’s pedestrian fatalities involved older residents or children. Seven of the 18 pedestrians killed were over the age of 60. Three-year-old Kiare Woods was killed while walking in a West Englewood crosswalk with his aunt. A driver who careened off the road in South Deering fatally struck Janice Gilmore, 67, while she was waiting for a bus.

“The latest traffic crash data is very troubling,” said CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld via email. “While we talk about statistics, it’s much more than that. Every one of these cases represents a personal tragedy that should have been avoided. Each one underscores the importance of our Vision Zero mission.”

Scheinfeld said the numbers show that the department needs to work with sister agencies, community organizations, and residents “to push even harder to change the culture that tolerates speeding and other dangerous driving behaviors, such as distracted driving. These behaviors are unacceptable, reckless and unnecessarily put people’s lives at risk.”

This post is made possible by a grant from the Illinois Bicycle Lawyers at Keating Law Offices, P.C., a Chicago, Illinois law firm committed to representing pedestrians and cyclists. The content is Streetsblog Chicago’s own, and Keating Law Offices neither endorses the content nor exercises any editorial control.

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