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The driver involved in the death of Martha Gonzales at 17th Place and Halsted Street has never been found. Quickly following the incident, Alderman Solis and the Chicago Department of Transportation implemented a few design interventions, including refreshed crosswalk markings, and a leading pedestrian interval that gets pedestrians crossing the street before drivers can start making turns. 

This is the second in a five part series on crash data analysis sponsored by Lawyer Jim Freeman.

2012 fatality stats*:
Pedestrian: 6 (5 have been from hit-and-run crashes)
Pedalcyclist: 0
Transit: 4

I made the Fatality Tracker because I want (need) to demonstrate that our roads are needlessly deadly. I’m not writing this to talk about how they may be dangerous. I don’t feel I can qualify or define that in a way that we’d all accept. So I’ll deal purely with specifics: how many people perished because our culture has an acceptable frequency of traffic deaths.

We report only deaths because of walking, cycling, or using transit. Why? Frankly, because tracking all traffic-related deaths would be too difficult to monitor accurately. I rely on newspaper reports, which don’t list all traffic deaths. If they were reported, the Fatality Tracker would be updated every 1-3 days. 

Four weeks later and three blocks away from a doubly-deadly car crash in March, 49-year old Cynthia Hoff was killed while crossing 4200 block of S Western Avenue on April 21. This makes the sixth pedestrian death and fifth hit-and-run pedestrian death in 2012, bringing our rate to 83%. NBC Chicago reported, “Police say they found the hit and run driver near the scene of the accident and arrested him. So far the driver has not been charged.”

While researching for this article, I came across a hit-and-run pedestrian death that I didn’t previously report, that of Aaliyah Kalimullahdunn at 80th Street and Ashland Avenue.

I previously reported that the hit-and-run rate for crashes involving pedestrians was 32.7% for the years 2005-2010. The data for 2011 won’t be available to me (and to the public) until August 2012. Thus making the Fatality Tracker more significant because of its timeliness.

The crash took place in the 4200 south block of Western Boulevard. View larger map.

Police officers found the car involved in the crash. “As of late Sunday afternoon, police are still seeking its driver and no arrests have been made, said [Officer John] Mirabelli” (Chicago Tribune).

Needless

Whenever I talk about traffic safety, I, without pause or reservation, bring up the fatality statistics the Netherlands “enjoys”. And it is enjoyment that so few people will have to die on their roads in a year compared to the United States, Illinois, and Chicago, even after adjusting for population and time or distance spent on the road. I can imagine how outraged the people of the Netherlands would be if they saw that their traffic safety rate was degrading. See how citizens reacted to a particularly bad crash (that had zero fatalities). The country is such a model for safe transportation that Alderman Solis and two CDOT workers were sent there.

We should be outraged that a single person dies. We can change our culture (see what transportation commissioner Gabe Klein has to say about our culture), and we can change our roads. We can change our societal standards to ensure all Chciagoans can achieve “life”, one of the unalienable rights laid out in the Declaration of Independence.

Fatality rate is slowly decreasing

I’m able report some good news: similar to national trends, the number of deaths in City of Chicago traffic has been steadily decreasing. In 2005, there were an average of 14.9 people dying in traffic crashes per month – this includes drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and pedalcyclists. Then 14.7 people in 2006, 13.7 people in 2007, 13 people in 2008, 11.8 people in 2009, and 10.3 people in 2010 (the last year for which data is available).

For more comparison, by the end of April 2010, there were 47 deaths in traffic; 13 of these were pedestrians yet only 4 of these were hit-and-run deaths, a ratio of 30.7%. I’ll remind you that we’ve had fewer pedestrians deaths at the same time this year, but our hit-and-run ratio is 80%.

The speed camera ordinance is just one step to reducing these numbers. The safety toolbox, coming as part of the speed camera program, should be even more significant. I think the most effective change but the hardest to catalyze is one where every person moving about our transportation system realizes their own role in facilitating the safe travel of others with whom they share the system.

Transit deaths

There have been 4 transit deaths in a 14-day period. This is the first time the 2012 Fatality Tracker has reported transit deaths. They are listed below:

  • April 5th, Dmitri Juspe, a 27-year-old man from Glenview died on the Red Line tracks near Loyola station. Chicago Tribune
  • March 30th, A “man jumped in front of a Brown Line train at the Francisco stop. Police called this incident a suicide.”
  • March 27th, Mark White, “52-year-old North Side man somehow fell in front of a train at the Bryn Mawr Red Line station. The Tribune reports it was unknown whether the man fell or jumped.”
  • March 23rd, a 14-year old boy named Rahmon Harris was playing on the Blue Line tracks. “After a friend dared him to jump on the tracks, the boy inadvertently touched the third rail and later died at Stroger Hospital.” The above three reports are from CTA Tattler.

* The information is only accurate as of this post’s publishing time. View previous Fatality Tracker posts.

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  • duppie

    Steven, is there any data available that show how many people drive without insurance and or drivers license? And are the drivers involved in hit-and-run crashes more than average driving without drivers license and or insurance?

    The first time fine for driving without insurance appears to be really low ($150?) and the risk of getting caught does not appear to be too high either, so for a person without any assets, it can be a lot “cheaper” to drive without insurance.
    Then when this person does get into a crash, are they more likely to flee the crash scene?

    If my assumptions are true, maybe it would be useful to crackdown on uninsured drivers to lower their numbers?

    • http://www.stevevance.net/ Steven Vance

      I think there is data, and I’ve linked to it before. The pitfall of that data is that we know it’s incomplete. We can only gather data from those who are pulled over. From there you make estimates.
      Regarding what makes a person more likely to flee, I posed that and other questions in the first “Lawyer Jim-sponsored crash analysis” series posts. http://gridchicago.com/2012/what-is-the-outcome-of-hit-and-run-crashes/

  • http://www.bikewalklincolnpark.com Michelle Stenzel

    That video you link to about the public response in the Netherlands to a crash in which a pickup truck ran into four teenaged bicyclists gives us a glimpse of how things are in countries where motor vehicles don’t rule the streets. Even though only one of the bicyclists needed even minor medical attention, the driver’s license was immediately suspended and he was charged with reckless, dangerous driving. He had to pay 800 euro to go to a refresher driver course, which he had to pass, or his license would be permanently revoked.
    Contrast that to our norm: If you’re a vehicle driver and you hit, injure or even kill a pedestrian, as long as you stay on the scene of the crash and you pass a breathalyzer test, you simply receive one or two citations for benign-sounding acts like “failure to yield”, and that’s it. You drive home, eat dinner, and carry on your life. The general feeling is that “accidents happen” and the pedestrian must have been in the wrong place at the wrong time; just his time to go. It’s outrageous.

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