Fatality Tracker: Three more pedestrian deaths since Sunday’s update


This photo of two elderly Chicagoans attempting to cross Western Avenue has been featured on Grid Chicago countless times now, but it’s very relevant to the news in this Fatality Tracker update. There have been 10 pedestrian deaths in Chicago this month (so far) and 50% have been people older than 50 years old. Photo by Joshua Koonce.

Pedestrian: 18 (8 have been hit-and-run crashes)
Pedalcyclist: 4 (1 is a hit-and-run crash)
Transit: 6

There are three pedestrian fatalities in this post, bringing the total number (known to us) to 18 deaths in traffic. The original reports come from the Chicago Tribune. 2010 saw 32 pedestrian deaths in Chicago and 33 in 2009. The majority of pedestrian deaths in 2010 occurred in March (6) and May (5). There was only 1 pedestrian death in August 2010 and 2 pedestrian deaths in August 2009. There have been 10 pedestrian deaths in August 2012, so far; five days remain.

Continue reading Fatality Tracker: Three more pedestrian deaths since Sunday’s update

Fatality Tracker: Semi-trailer truck driver kills bicyclist in Fuller Park, flees


American roadway design requires people riding bicycles and people driving trucks to “share the road”. Photo of a sign in California that says “bikes in lane” by Richard Masoner. Notice that the depicted bike is “in front” of the car.

2012 Chicago fatality stats*:

Pedestrian: 7 (6 have been hit-and-run crashes)
Pedalcyclist: 4 (1, this one, is a hit-and-run crash)
Transit: 6

According to the Chicago Tribune, a robotic semi-trailer truck struck and killed Evelyn Dean yesterday, while she was bicycling, as it was entering a Norfolk Southern (NS) railroad yard in the block of 300 W 47th Street in Fuller Park.

The semi was entering the Norfolk Southern facility in the 300 block of West 47th Street around 1:40 p.m. Monday when it struck the female bicyclist and immediately fled the scene, Chicago police said, citing early reports.

The unidentified woman, believed to be in her 40s, was dead the scene, authorities said.

The Tribune story (authored by “staff”) used robot car language, which perpetuates a dangerous pattern in crash reporting by removing the real actors of the story, by writing “[it] immediately fled the scene”. A person caused the truck to flee the scene.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, police are seeking the driver and calling this a hit-and-run crash. The Google Street View for this location is below. The entrance to the intermodal yard is between multiple viaducts, which likely affects visibility of people cycling on this street. WGN TV has a news segment.

Transportation commissioner Gabe Klein tweeted yesterday a link to CBS Chicago’s article on the story, adding, “Very sad, why we need protected lanes”. The City hasn’t proposed protected bike lanes on this stretch of road.

View 300 W 47th block in 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 10:01 to add unrelated photo and change what constitutes robot car language in the quoted passage. Updated 19:50 to add the woman’s name and a link to a WGN TV news story. 

How do you get insurance information from a car that presumably drove itself?


An actual robotic car. Cars driven by robotic software may actually be safer for our roads than cars driven by people because they never stop paying attention. Photo by j-fi. 

You may have read about 10 days ago that actor Gene Hackman was involved in a collision with an automobile while cycling in Florida. And if you read about this on CNN’s website, you may be under the impression that he was hit by a robot car. Twice in the article there is a mention of a car hitting Hackman and but a driver of that automobile is mentioned 0 times. The robot car strikes again!

I want news media to write stronger, more accurate descriptions of the situation. I want articles about robot cars to only be about cars that are driven without a human operator (an article by Tom  Vanderbilt, also the author of Traffic). When you discover it, tell the author and their editor that you want better information. I am republishing, in full, Travis Wittwer’s essay titled “#robotcar”: Continue reading How do you get insurance information from a car that presumably drove itself?

They’re not accidents, and we don’t have robotic cars

Updated October 5, 2011, to add a reference to a new article that fails to mention that the car involved in a crash had a driver. 


The headline for this crash might read: “Taxi wanted to avoid Lake Shore Drive congestion by taking the Lakefront Trail, makes wrong turn”. Photo by Andrew Ciscel. 

Language and word choice is powerful. It influences you to interpret a story in a specific way – or another. Monday’s headline on the Chicago Sun-Times website reads, “Police seek vehicle in fatal Uptown hit-and-run” and I thought, “Aren’t the police also interested in the driver of that vehicle?”*

And I read the first paragraph:

Police have released surveillance photos of a car that plowed into a woman crossing the street in Uptown early Saturday, then reportedly backed up and struck her again before fleeing the scene. The pedestrian died eight hours later.

“Oh, the police are looking for a car that drives itself. Of course!” I exclaimed to myself. “I guess one of Google’s experimental cars has come to Chicago”. But I was wrong as in the fifth paragraph, the unnamed author of this article described the crash: Continue reading They’re not accidents, and we don’t have robotic cars