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Chicago on-street traffic fatalities are down 24% overall compared to 2018

3:21 PM PDT on September 9, 2019

A pedestrian crosses out of Chicago at Harlem, the edge of the city. (Chicagoland Bike & Walk Photo Contest)

There was some good news about traffic safety at yesterday's Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Council meeting. As of August 31, overall on-street Chicago traffic deaths were down 24 percent compared to the same time in 2018. There have also been far fewer bike fatalities than this time this year.

There were 66 total on-street traffic fatalities this year by the end of August, compared to 87 by this time in 2018, and 77.2 death by this time on average between 2012 and 2016, Chicago Department of Transportation bike and pedestrian program manager Dave Smith said at the meeting.

While Chicago pedestrian fatalities were down 40 percent this year as of May 30 compared to 2018, with only 12 deaths, sadly that relative good luck streak didn't last. By August 31 drivers had fatally struck 30 people walking, two more than the 28 pedestrians killed by this time last year, and three more than the 2012-2016 average of 27.

Photo: Eric Allix Rogers
Photo: Eric Allix Rogers
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Smith noted that drivers killed several pedestrians this year who weren't on regular streets, including several cases that took place on sidewalks (including at least three deaths at bus stops), alleys, and even in a building. He didn't have data to compare this phenomenon to previous years.

By August 31 of 2019, drivers had fatally struck five bicyclists in Chicago, and the five-year average was 3.4. In contrast, no cyclists had been killed on Chicago streets as of last month. Tragically, however, on Sunday, September 1, a hit-and-run SUV driver struck and killed Richard Williams, 56, in West Garfield Park.

In addition, Smith said that injury crashes involving a bicyclist were down 7 percent as of August 31 compared to 2018, and down 18 percent compared to the 2012-16 average.

Motorist fatalities are also significantly down this year, with 36 as of the end of August, compared to 54 in 2018, and the five-year average of 46.8.

It's not at all clear whether or not Chicago's Vision Zero crash prevention initiative deserves any credit for the drop in overall traffic fatalities. But surely the dozens of safety education and outreach events, and scores of safety infrastructure projects CDOT completed last year, can't be hurting matters.

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