Reports of Traffic Safety in Illinois for 2014 Show Mix of Tragedy and Hope
Eyes across the state of Illinois turned to traffic safety issues numerous times in 2014—sometimes with grief, but sometimes with hope for a better future. Here’s a summary of some of the biggest stories from last year and a little information about efforts toward changes that could support greater safety and fewer fatalities on our roads in 2015.
Cars and Trucks
While there was a decrease in fatal car accidents statewide in 2014, accidents around Chicago and across the state still took lives, caused injuries, and made headlines throughout the year. Prominent educational programs targeted Illinois drivers, and many agencies launched efforts against distraction, fatigue, and other dangerous or reckless driving behaviors. In light of the highly publicized truck wreck that injured actor Tracy Morgan and a tragic accident that took the life of a much-loved member of Chicago’s theatre community, truck accidents and trucking safety were especially under scrutiny last year.
Nationwide attention was also turned to potentially dangerous issues with vehicles and roadways that are beyond the driver’s control, including increased questions about potentially deadly Trinity guardrails and safety issues with Takata airbags.
According to data from the Illinois Department of Transportation, motorcycle fatalities also decreased in 2014, dropping by nearly 30 percent compared to 2013 for the period between January and July. Although it’s been argued that the decrease might be partially due to having fewer registered motorcyclists on the road, some have pointed to a change in Illinois speed-limit laws last year that may make rural interstates safer for motorcycles.
Bikes and Pedestrians
The tragic number of bike and pedestrian deaths received a lot of attention in 2014—and with good reason. Illinois already ranks fifth in the nation for bicycle deaths, and reports showed an increase in pedestrian deaths compared to 2013. Multiple efforts are being made to reduce those numbers as we enter 2015, including:
- Chicago’s Vision Zero program has committed to a goal to eliminate pedestrian traffic deaths by 2022, with a special focus on the risk of pedestrian fatalities when a driver is speeding.
- The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) announced a plan to study the safety of cyclists and pedestrians in District One, which includes Cook, DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane, and Will Counties. IDOT brought on Primera to help fill research gaps and look at a number of potential safety strategies, such as protected and buffered bike lanes, bike traffic signals, pedestrian scrambles, better crosswalk signals, high-tech pedestrian signals, and more.
- The Illinois Bike Transportation Plan, released by IDOT, continued its efforts toward making safe biking a reality across the state and providing long-term planning to accommodate cyclists.
Bus and Rail Commuters
Although commuters using the CTA may be safer than drivers on Chicago’s roads, there were still a number of notable accidents and injuries involving mass transportation in 2014:
- Twenty-Four People Hurt in a CTA Bus Accident
- U-Haul and CTA Bus Collide and Injure Eight
- Fifteen Injured in O’Hare Bus Crash at Start of Holiday Weekend
- Safety Concerns Prompt Federal Investigation of Metra
While formal investigations were launched into these mass-transit incidents, and some changes—like the planned rebuilding of Blue Line stations—were made, it could be a long wait for other rail-industry changes that might keep passengers safer.
What kinds of traffic and safety changes would you like to see in Illinois in the coming year? Share your comments with our team below, or connect with us on Facebook for regular updates throughout 2015.