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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  • Jennifer

    That photo is not of the woman who died. And the woman who died did not have grandchildren.

  • David Henri

    “Nothing reckless about the drivers behavior” !
    Except for the fact that the motorist ran right into her and killed her. Wasn’t even looking where she was driving. The Niles police should be ashamed of themselves.

  • Jeremy

    Do you think they checked the driver’s phone to see if she was using it when she hit the pedestrian?

  • ChicagoCyclist

    Good point / idea!

  • ChicagoCyclist

    To Commander Tornabene: Please work with (and push hard on) roadway agencies and elected officials to ensure the installation of sidewalks along Golf and other major arterials in this (and other) areas. Please work with the same entities to ensure that safe crossings, at “pedestrian-scale” distances or intervals, are installed along these arterials. People will not — and should not have — to walk a mile out of their way to reach a crossing — especially if there is no pedestrian way (i.e. sidewalk), but only a muddy, snowy trail. Do you understand that? Think of seniors — perhaps your own relatives — with canes or walkers. This is a public safety issue. Moreover, U.S. ADA law requires it. The U.S. Dept. of Justice can bring a suit against Niles, the Township, and other jurisdictions. You — in conjunction with elected officials and roadway agencies — must act fast. I wonder: are you competent enough to achieve this? Many residents in the area hope so, and challenge you to prove it.

  • rwy

    Can you link to any news articles about cities being sued for dangerous pedestrian conditions? How bad does it have to be before the DOJ gets involved?

  • John

    Golf Rd is an IDOT route. Needs sidewalks badly.

  • planetshwoop

    Google it. Tons. I know of one active case against the city of chicago where CDOT stalled on an intersection deemed dangerous, someone was killed, and now the city faces a lawsuit.

    But for this issue, I think an important part of these is the mess that is the overlapping jurisdictions in the area. Niles, “unincorporated” Maine Township, IDOT — Illinois has too many govt bodies.

  • rwy

    Involving the DOJ?

  • planetshwoop

    No DOJ.

  • rwy

    Shame. I do like the idea of the DOJ throwing it’s weight around to solve the issue.

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