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Who’s to blame for the killing of a man on the sidewalk after two drivers crashed in West Ridge?

The police statement and crash report provide different accounts of which driver should have yielded, but a 6-lane street layout may have also played a role in the tragedy.

3:36 PM CDT on September 19, 2023

Image of the aftermath of the crash, from a CBS Chicago report:

Tragically, on Monday morning two teen drivers crashed at the intersection of two major streets in the Acadia Terrace section of Chicago's West Ridge community, and one of the vehicles careened towards a man on the sidewalk, killing him.

According to the initial Chicago Police Department statement, on Monday, September 18, at about 7:30 a.m., an 18-year-old man was driving a Volkswagen Touareg crossover SUV east on Peterson Avenue (6000 N.) towards California Avenue (2800 W.) This segment of Peterson is part of U.S. Route 14 in Illinois, and the street has six travel lanes here, which encourages speeding.

Aerial view of the multilane Peterson/California intersection. Image: Google Maps

At the same time, an 18-year-old woman was driving west in a Nissan Sentra sedan when she attempted to turn left, southbound, on California, the CPD statement says. "[The SUV driver] continued through a red light, striking [the sedan driver.] One of the vehicles then struck a pedestrian, who was on the sidewalk."

The CPD statement says the pedestrian, who has not been identified, was pronounced dead at the scene. The sedan driver was taken to Ascension St. Francis hospital in fair condition.

According to the statement, the SUV driver was cited for "Failure to Yield – Red Light."

Image of the collision from the crash report.

The traffic crash report states, and footage of the aftermath from a CBS Chicago report seems to confirm, that the pedestrian was struck on the sidewalk in front of a BP station at the southeast corner of the intersection.

While the initial CPS statement said the SUV driver blew a red, the crash report says he told police otherwise. "[The SUV driver] related to responding officers he was traveling eastbound on Peterson and the light was yellow when [he] drove into the intersection."

The crash report states that after the SUV driver hit the sedan driver, "The impact landed both units on the southeast side corner on [the] Peterson/California intersection striking [the pedestrian] who was standing in that location." In addition to killing the man, the crash damaged a city lamp post and the gas station's fence.

The ticket for failing to yield to a left-turning driver, when turning motorists are normally required to yield to oncoming traffic, is notable given the SUV driver's claim that he didn't run a red, said Brendan Kevenides, an attorney with the pedestrian and bike injury firm FK Law (a Streetsblog sponsor.) "However, I am wondering if the police viewed video of the crash and determined that [the sedan driver] started their turn before the change of lights, but that [the SUV driver] entered on a red, despite claiming that the light was yellow." He noted that there's a red light camera at this intersection. "That may shed light on what happened. Tragic situation regardless."

As the sign at the right side of this image states, Peterson/California is photo enforced. Image: Google Docs

"All motorists have a duty to slow down at intersections and to only proceed through an intersection when it is safe to do so," said pedestrian and bike injury attorney Michael Keating of Keating Law Offices (a Streetsblog sponsor.) "What is clear from this crash report is that the pedestrian was doing absolutely nothing wrong and was simply standing on the corner. Based on what we know thus far, if the drivers of either of the vehicles had simply stopped and waited for green lights this crash was unlikely to have ever occurred." 

Streetsblog Chicago Fatality Tracker

Pedestrian: 21

Bicyclist: 3

Note: Streetsblog Chicago’s traffic death numbers represent fatal crashes on Chicago surface streets, based on media reports and/or preliminary Chicago Police Department data.

2023 Chicago pedestrian fatality cases

2023 Chicago bike fatalities

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