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Beyond Chicagoland

IDOT’s “Life or Death” Campaign Urges Drivers to Show Due Care for Pedestrians and Cyclists

A still from one of the new campaign’s PSA’s.

A child's sneaker lies on the road, along with broken sunglasses, a smartphone with earbuds, a purse, papers, a school backpack, and shards of glass and plastic. As a crash victim is loaded into an ambulance, we see a young woman speaking with with a responding officer and shrugging, possibly giving an excuse like, "I didn't see them -- the sun was in my eyes." Then the camera pans to a "Stop for pedestrian in crosswalk" sign.

"Please listen," says the chilling voiceover, a child's voice. "You really need to hear this. Because it's up to all of us to make a difference. Pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists. We all need to pay more attention, especially as crosswalks, school zones and other high-traffic areas. It really is a matter of life or death." Text on the screen notes that 15% of Illinois' crash-related fatalities are pedestrians and bicyclists.

According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, which commissioned the 30-second clip, the video is part of the state's first multimodal, multimedia safety campaign, paid for by federal traffic safety grant money. “Illinois is facing a crisis with more than 1,000 deaths on our roads each of the last two years," said Illinois transportation secretary Randy Blankenhorn, formerly head of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, in a statement. “The Life or Death campaign is a step in the right direction toward getting people to think about how the decisions they make in their day-to-day lives have deadly consequences.”

IDOT has historically prioritized street designs that facilitate fast driving, rather than create safe conditions for all road users, and and the agency is continuing to push for road expansion projects. Still it's good to see the state calling on drivers to take responsibility for not killing others, even if the wording of this ad implies that there's an equal onus on people walking and biking, and those piloting high-speed, two-ton machines, to pay attention.

IDOT says that previous safety campaign have focused on impaired driving and seatbelt use, but the new campaign is aimed at reducing injuries and fatalities associated with motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, work zones and distracted driving. The ads will run throughout the year on various media, including digital billboards, social media, and other online platforms, as well as radio and TV. The agency has also launched a new website,, which will provide printable educational materials and links for the public to share their own stories of how responsible conduct on the road -- or the lack of it -- prevented or contributed to tragedy.

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