Various news outlets, including the Chicago Tribune, reported this week that pedestrian deaths from motor vehicles were up in 2015. There were 2,368 pedestrians killed in the first six months of 2015, compared to 2,232 during the same period in 2014 — a 6 percent increase. Researchers arrived at a 10 percent increase for the entire year by factoring in that fatalities for the first half of the year are typically underreported, and that for at least the last five years an average of 25 percent more pedestrian deaths were recorded in the second half of the year, which includes warmer summer months.Total traffic deaths, which had been trending downward for the past decade, were also up an estimated 8 percent last year. But pedestrian fatalities have been rising since 2005, and now account for 15 percent of total traffic deaths.
What is the cause of this recent uptick in traffic fatalities? According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, the proliferation of cell phone use by drivers has caused people to be more distracted. Also, the improved economy reveals that more drivers are on the road than in recent years.
I unfortunately do not have numbers for Illinois or Chicago, but I would imagine they follow the national trend. This is a disturbing trend especially since Mayor Rahm Emanuel has focused on improving safety for pedestrians and drivers with red light and speeder cameras. As I stated yesterday in my blog and several times before, these cameras do not show a net safety improvement, and in my opinion, these programs should end. Regardless, the city and state will have to take a long look at improving safety for pedestrians. One way, which I have mentioned before, is to increase the penalty for cell phone use while driving. Especially if someone is injured in a car accident while someone is using their phone.
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Autoweek.com published an article last month discussing Jaguar’s new “bike sense” technology, which is aimed at protecting bicyclists and Jaguar drivers from being involved in traffic accidents.
Bike Sense system uses sensors on the car to detect approaching bicycles and motorcycles, and alert the driver with sights and sounds that the driver instinctively associates with those two types of vehicles. So if a bicycle is approaching from the rear right side of the car, the audio system in the car will generate a bicycle bell sound from one of the speakers inside the cabin, in same direction as the approaching bicycle. The system will also be able to monitor the speed of approaching bicycles and motorcycles, and the top of the driver’s seat will extend to tap the driver on the right or left shoulder.
In addition to warning the driver by sound and by touch, Bike Sense will also use a matrix of LED light built into the window sills, the dash, and windscreen pillars, with lights glowing amber and switching to red as a bicycle approaches. Bike Sense will also be able to detect pedestrians crossing the road in front of a moving car who are obscured by other objects.
This technology is still in testing stages but could be installed in Jaguar vehicles by the end of the decade. This is incredible technology in my mind. It is especially relevant in big cities such as Chicago that are bicycle friendly. There are always safety concerns for pedestrians and bicyclists in Chicago and Mayor Emanuel has done a solid job of promoting safety initiatives such has safer crosswalks with stop signs and designated bike lanes. Technology like “Bike Sense,” if developed by other car makers, could make a huge difference in the safety for both pedestrians and bicyclists in big cities like Chicago.
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Though the numbers show
pedestrian auto accidents and pedestrian deaths have been on the rise in
Chicago and around the country since 2007, a new study reveals Chicago is one
of the safest among big cities. The Chicago Sun Times reported
about a study titled “Dangerous by Design,” performed by the National
Complete Streets Coalition. The study revealed that Chicago ranked number 45 among the country’s
51 largest metro areas for pedestrians killed per 100,000 residents over five years,
from 2008 to 2012, according to the study.
think Chicago officials need to be recognized for their part in trying to make
streets safer for pedestrians. In 2012, then-Chicago Department of Transportation
Commissioner Gabe Klein included a goal of zero traffic fatalities by 2020 in
his 2012 “Chicago Forward” plan. It called for 20-mph zones in all city
residential areas, as well as more mid-block crossings, refuge street “islands”
and crosswalks. Other elements: giving pedestrians signalized head-starts ahead
of cars at intersections; more pedestrian countdown clocks at signal lights;
speed cameras around parks and schools; and continued red light camera speed
Since then, city pedestrian fatalities have
dropped from 47 in 2012 to an estimated 29 in 2013, said CDOT spokesman Pete
Scales. “We’re starting to make headway,” Scales said.
It will be interesting to see if Chicago
reaches the goal of zero fatalities by 2020. The city is definitely doing their
part, although I would like to see more data and studies in school and park
zones where the speeding cameras have been installed.
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