4th Pedestrian Fatality in Niles Area May Inspire a Crackdown — on Pedestrians

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Earlier this winter, three motorists, one of them a hit-and-run driver, struck and killed elderly people in less than a month in or near northwest-suburban Niles. There have been no charges or tickets for the motorists in any of these cases.

The appropriate response by village officials would have been to take a hard look at how street layouts and enforcement of driving laws should be improved to protect vulnerable residents. Instead, in the wake of these tragedies the Niles Police Department posted signs in bus shelters near dangerous intersections that largely put the onus for safety on people walking.

The flier posted by the Niles Police Department.
The flier posted by the Niles Police Department.

Last Sunday night, a fourth person over age 60 was killed in the area. The Niles Police responded by ramping up the victim-blaming, and they’re currently considering targeted enforcement on pedestrians, rather than reckless drivers.

According to a Chicago Tribune report, Annamma Abraham, 61, at about 8:30 p.m. on Sunday was walking east along Golf Road near Greenwood Drive, a stretch where the road has five lanes and no sidewalks. Abraham lived a few blocks west on the 9600 block of Golf Terrace. There was ice and snow on the muddy parkway at the time, and Abraham was walking in the street near the curb, police said.

A female driver, 46, heading east in a Honda struck Abraham from behind, the Tribune reported. The victim was transported to Lutheran General Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 9:45 p.m.

The motorist told police she was unable to stop in time avoid striking the pedestrian, and she was not cited, according to the Tribune. Niles Police Commander Robert Tornabene said there appeared to be “nothing reckless about the driver’s behavior.”

“People who walk in the area typically walk in the grass that is there,” Tornabene told the Tribune, adding that if the grass is snowy or otherwise challenging to walk on, pedestrians sometimes choose to walk in the road instead. “I’m sure that was a contributing factor” in Abraham’s death, he said.

Torrebene added that the parkway sits in unincorporated Maine Township, the Tribune reported. Township highway commissioner Walter Kazmierczak said he couldn’t conform that offhand, and wasn’t sure that a sidewalk could be installed on the parkway.  Sidewalks on Golf Road in this area, both in Niles and in the unincorporated area, are recommended in the 2018 Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning / Cook County Maine-Northfield plan on Pages 64-65.

Tornabene told the Tribune that the victim-shaming bus stop signs as part of a “pedestrian action plan.” He added that the police force is also considering writing more tickets to pedestrians. “We may also start to issue warning citations in areas where people are crossing without crosswalks or walking in a manner that would put them at risk,” he said said. The idea would be to “further educate” them about safe behavior, he said.

So the Niles Police Departments response to a pedestrian fatality crisis in a dense suburb, largely populated by working-class immigrants, is to start ticketing people for not walking in crosswalks on sidewalks that don’t exist.

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