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Pedestrian Fatalities on the Rise

Posted On February 05, 2016

A preliminary report released by the Chicago Police Department shows that the number of pedestrian fatalities in the city rose by 31 percent during 2015. Forty-six pedestrians lost their lives after being struck by motor vehicles last year. This is up from 35 fatalities the previous year. The Illinois Department of Transportation will be releasing their official count later this year, but it is expected their report will be the same.

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Pedestrian fatalities infographic

Between 2010 to 2014, the average number of pedestrian deaths for the month of January was two each year. However, during January 2015, seven pedestrian fatalities occurred in the city of Chicago. This year, the number of deaths fell to just two during the month of January.

Chicago Pedestrian Fatalities

For the three years prior to 2014 and 2015, the number of pedestrian fatalities in Chicago were as follows:

  • 2013 – 27
  • 2012 – 47
  • 2011 – 36

Not Just Chicago or the State of Illinois

According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA), there was a 10 percent average increase of pedestrian fatalities across the country during the first half of 2015 in comparison to the same period in 2014. What is alarming though is that the state of Illinois saw an increase of 24 percent, with pedestrian deaths jumping from 55 in 2014 to 68 in 2015. This puts the state at the 16th highest increase in the country.

The GSHA report showed that most pedestrian fatalities occur in large states with large urban areas. In the first half of 2015, New York, Texas, California and Florida accounted for 42 percent of all pedestrian fatalities. Pedestrian fatalities now account for 15 percent of all crash-related deaths, where just a decade ago, that number was 11 percent according to GSHA data. According to Richard Retting, one of the report’s authors, “We are projecting the largest year-to-year increase in pedestrian fatalities since national records have been kept, and therefore we are quite alarmed.”

Why the Increase in Pedestrian Deaths?

While automobiles are becoming safer with advanced technology, pedestrians do not have the benefit of the protection that a car provides. Therefore, they are naturally more vulnerable to severe injuries if they are struck by a vehicle because they are at a disadvantage.

Locally, Joe Schwieterman, of the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University suggests that aggressive driving might be a cause of rise in pedestrian deaths. Aggressive driving may include speeding, driving recklessly or distractions such as loud music, cell phone use or texting while driving.

More Walkers and Cyclists on the Streets

More people are choosing to take mass transit, walk or bike more for various reasons including to help save the environment or to improve their physical fitness. Rail ridership increased to 241 million passengers in 2015. This increases the number of pedestrians who are walking and crossing streets to get to train stations.
There has been a 14 percent increase since 2010 in the number of people walking to work. People who ride bicycles to work has increased to 55 percent according to Chicago’s Department of Transportation American Community Survey. This is a trend that has been seen around the country with 4 million Americans claiming they walk to work and 860,000 saying they ride a bike to work in the 2013 Census.

The Courts and Lawsuits for Pedestrian Accidents

Under the law, when a pedestrian suffers an injury or fatality because of someone else’s negligence, he or his family may recover damages. To establish negligence, the Chicago personal injury attorney hired by the injured party or their family must prove that the person or entity (defendant) at fault:

  • Should have protected the injured party from a foreseeable risk and owed a legal duty to do
  • Failed in fulfilling that duty through their actions or inactions
  • Was responsible for the accident that injured the plaintiff
  • The plaintiff suffered an injury or died as a result

In the case of a pedestrian accident, there may be instances where the driver of the motor vehicle is not entirely at fault. There could be extenuating circumstances that include that the road, sidewalk or parking lot where the accident occurred where improperly maintained and led to the accident. The pedestrian who was injured or killed may have also contributed to the accident.

What is Duty of Care?

In a personal injury case involving a pedestrian fatality or injury, the personal injury attorney will investigate the duty of care exercised by both parties. For example, the driver should have been exercising reasonable care by observing the rules of the road and yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks. On the other hand, the pedestrian is also responsible for exercising reasonable care by anticipating the consequences if they take an unacceptable risk that could contribute to the cause of their own injury.

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