The Maya Hirsch settlement will help save the lives of other Chicago children


Maya Hirsch with her father, courtesy of the Stop for Maya foundation.

On Wednesday Chicago City Council approved a $3.25 million settlement with the family of Maya Hirsch, a four-year-old girl who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Lincoln Park, possibly due to poorly placed signs and faded crosswalks. Under the Emanuel administration the city has ramped up its efforts to improve pedestrian safety, but the settlement highlights the need to continue these efforts, which will help prevent similar tragedies.

On the afternoon of May 20, 2006, after visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo, Maya and her mother and older brother were crossing the intersection of Belden Avenue and Lincoln Park West to catch a cab when Michael Roth, 57, driving northbound, ran the stop sign. Roth, who had worked as a driving instructor in the early 1980s, but had his driver’s license revoked for several years after two DUI convictions, had a valid license at the time of the crash.

Continue reading The Maya Hirsch settlement will help save the lives of other Chicago children

Fatality tracker: 5-year-old girl killed in hit-and-run crash


“It’s up to you”, an image of a mannequin t-shirt’s pedestrian safety message from fall 2011. It’s hard to tell if this message is directed at people walking along and across the street, or at those who can inflict traffic harm against them. Photo by Kevin Zolkiewicz. 

2012 Chicago fatality stats*:

Pedestrian: 7 (6 have been from hit-and-run crashes)
Pedalcyclist: 0
Transit: 5

Be on the lookout for a green, four-door Pontiac Grand Am with extensive damage to the passenger side front headlight that the Chicago Police Department said was involved in a crash with a 5-year-old girl named Monet Robinson, who died at Mount Sinai Hospital less than 30 minutes after the collision (on Monday, July 2). Police officer Daniel O’Brien said that they are searching for a male driver in his 20s, according to CBS Chicago.

The crash occurred in the 1500 S Millard Avenue block in the North Lawndale neighborhood. Below is a Street View image of the block. According to our tracking for 2012, this is the eighth pedestrian traffic fatality, and the sixth hit-and-run pedestrian fatality. In 2010, the last year for which compiled data is available (from the Illinois Department of Transportation), there were 22 pedestrian deaths until July 2, 2010.

At a press conference in Lincoln Park today to highlight new “stop for pedestrians in crosswalk” signs, transportation commissioner Gabe Klein offered his condolences and mentioned that automated speed enforcement cameras might have been able to film the collision. He said that the crash location was between two schools; speed cameras are only allowed to be placed within 1/8 mile of schools and parks.

Huffington Post has additional info, links, and a video.

View 1500 S Millard Avenue in a larger map

* The information is only accurate as of this post’s publishing time and includes only people who died in the Chicago city limits. View previous Fatality Tracker posts. Updated 16:02 to add the victim’s name, a link to Huffington Post, and a quote from CDOT commissioner Gabe Klein.

Fatality tracker update: four transit deaths, and 80% of pedestrian deaths this year are hit-and-run crashes


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.  Continue reading Fatality tracker update: four transit deaths, and 80% of pedestrian deaths this year are hit-and-run crashes

Importance of hit-and-run crash deaths in the news media


One of the question sets I posed in this morning’s crash analysis article was about the attention hit-and-run crashes receive in news media:

Why are certain people who die emphasized in news media reporting? Why are other people ignored? In other words, of the 315 people who died in traffic crashes in 2010, how many got a newspaper article written about them?

In the Sunday’s Chicago Tribune newspaper, I found a tiny article at the bottom of the pictured page (above) for the deadlier of the two crashes from Saturday: a toddler and a 6-year-old in Brighton Park. If there was an article about Jesse Bradley in the same paper, I didn’t find it.

What is the outcome of hit-and-run crashes?

A prayer circle for Martha Gonzalez
Photo of a prayer circle for Martha Gonzalez by floozefactor/Flickr.

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

Pedestrians and bicyclists involved in hit-and-run traffic crashes with automobiles in Chicago receive more injuries and die more often than pedestrians and bicyclists involved in hit-no-run crashes while drivers and passengers have the opposite outcome. This post attempts to describe the situation of hit-and-run crashes in Chicago.

On Sunday I wrote that 75% of all pedestrian traffic deaths this year were in hit-and-run crashes; it’s important to know that all the offending drivers were later apprehended (note 1). The horrific events on Saturday made me curious: How prevalent are hit and run crashes? I already know that our hit-and-run rate is 28.5% for 2005-2010, but how does that translate into frequency of injuries and fatalities? Are hit-and-run crashes worse for drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists? Better than hit-no-run crashes? I ran a few calculations to find the answers. I came up with more questions than answers, but my initial interpretation is that hit-and-run crashes are not much better or worse than hit-no-run crashes when looking at every crash participant combined. Continue reading What is the outcome of hit-and-run crashes?

Fatality Tracker: Two hit-and-run crashes and three deaths in one day


The intersection of LaSalle and Division Streets where Jesse Bradley was killed. Photo may not depict where the crash occurred. Photo by Monika Nevis. 

2012 fatality stats*:
Pedestrian: 4 (3 have been from hit-and-run crashes)
Pedalcyclist: 0
Transit: 0

According to my tracking, the city will probably maintain its status as a place with a high frequency of hit-and-run crashes as 75% of all pedestrian fatalities in Chicago this year have been because of hit-and-run drivers.

On Saturday, March 24, 2012, there were two crashes and three deaths, but only one of the three who died was a pedestrian. First, in the early morning at LaSalle Street and Division Street:

A 32-year-old man died after being hit by an SUV driven by a 21-year-old woman…

The woman fled the scene but was caught a couple blocks away, Chicago Police Department News Affairs Officer Amina Greer said. She was driving a Jeep Liberty southbound on LaSalle when she hit the man about 2:30 a.m., Greer said. [Jesse] Bradley was a third year law student at Northwestern University Law School, according to university spokesman Alan Cubbage. Chicago Tribune, 1

Assistant State’s Atty. Ericka Graunke said [Bianca] Garcia had a blood alcohol content of .168, more than double the .08 legal limit, following the early Saturday morning crash. Chicago Tribune, 2

She is charged with felony aggravated driving while under the influence resulting in death, misdemeanor reckless driving and misdemeanor driving under the influence. She is also cited with operating a vehicle without insurance, driving while unlicensed and driving the wrong way on a one-way street. Chicago Tribune, 3

Then in the evening in Brighton Park, chaos:

A horrific scene played out on the Southwest Side Saturday evening after a hit-and-run driver fled one accident [crash] only to plow into a second car, killing a toddler and a 6-year-old inside. In the wake of the 6:30 p.m. crash near 45th and Western, a witness described watching a distraught woman run from victim to victim, trying to help a 19-month-old child still strapped into a car seat lying on the street, the 6-year-old in the back seat of her demolished car and a gasping, bleeding man slumped over the wheel.

The driver of the SUV was arrested and taken to an area hospital for treatment. Chicago Sun-Times

As he [Joey Chavez] drove his 2003 Mercury Mountaineer, he rear-ended a 1997 Dodge Neon on the 4500 block of South Western Avenue that resulted in the death of 10-month-old Julissa Ochoa, 10 months, and her brother Eric, 5, officials said. Chicago Tribune

That’s three hit-and-run deaths in a single day; the first hit-and-run this year was in February on 95th Street near Cottage Grove Avenue. The baby and child are not included in fatality tracker stats at this time because they were in a car, but I think I may change my evolving fatality tracker policy to include hit-and-run deaths of car drivers and passengers.

This is as good a time as any to talk about the hit-and-run rate in Chicago, Since last reporting on hit-and-run rates in December 2011, I’ve calculated some new numbers from additional data and filtered out bike and pedestrian crashes. I will be posting about this later in the week.

See previous articles in the fatality tracker series. Grid Shots is postponed this weekend. 

* The information is only accurate as of this post’s publishing time. Post updated March 26, at 16:19, to add information about the LaSalle/Division crash. Updated March 27 at 09:16 to add charges filed against Bianca Garcia. Updated March 29 at 01:10 to add updated information about the children who died in the 4500 S Western crash.