If you live and/or work in the city, chances are you’re doing a lot of walking. And with the price of gas nowadays, you’re probably doing extra walking. If so, you can probably relate to CBS’s analogy that crossing the street in Chicago is like playing the old videogame “Frogger.” In short, walk at your own risk.
The statistics put this real danger in perspective. On average, there are approximately 1000 serious pedestrian accidents each year in Chicago, resulting in over 900 serious injuries and 71 fatalities. Almost one-third of those accidents are hit-and-runs. And while pedestrians do contribute to some of the accidents, efforts at educating the public are focused on drivers since they are the ones operating heavy machinery.
As a recent AP article noted, part of the problem is our culture of entitlement. As drivers, we tend to feel like we own the roads. And with bumper-to-bumper traffic, it always feels like it should be our turn. As a result, motorists on a mission have a ‘get out of my way’ mentality that can prove dangerous to pedestrians just trying to get to the other side.
With the heavy pedestrian presence on Chicago’s streets, the city of the big shoulders needs to make some room for walkers. That’s why the city of Chicago is working on engineering, education, and enforcement to make our streets safer for pedestrians. To demonstrate the severity of the problem, in June, an undercover officer pretended to be a pedestrian using the crosswalk. In less than two hours, police issued warnings to 101 drivers who failed to yield.
Clearly, as drivers, we need to pay more attention to those on foot. But, as pedestrians, we also need to pay better attention to the motor vehicles around us. Most recently, many have expressed concern over our preoccupation with technological devices; keeping your eyes glued to your Blackberry, reading a new email, could be deadly if you’re simultaneously trying to cross the street. The same goes for zoning out with your earbuds in, listening to your iPod.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, there are also more mundane measures you can take to cut your risk, such as dressing such that you can be seen. Bright colors are better. Many operate under the false assumption that if you can see a car’s headlights, it can see you, too. Wrong! The Times suggests reflective colors for nighttime walking. Then again, if you stay focused on your surroundings and ignore the temptation to get lost in your gadgets, you should be fine regardless of attire. It’s all about keeping safety as your focus.
Here are the top 10 most dangerous intersections, ranked based upon total accident statistics from 2003 and 2005:
1. King Drive and 79th…..13
2. Ashland and 79th…..11
3. California and North…..10
4. Cicero and Madison…..9
5. Pulaski and Irving Park…..8
6. Kedzie and North…..8
7. Halsted and 95th…..8
8. Michigan and Monroe…..8
9. Clark and Washington…..7
10. Dearborn and Randolph…..7
Your schedule likely doesn’t allow you to avoid these intersections entirely, nor would that address the problem. CDOT is studying the most dangerous spots and brainstorming ways to improve their safety with better signs, pavement markings and signal timing. Regardless of what measures the city takes, however, there is plenty we can do, as both pedestrians and motorists, to improve the situation. So, before putting your foot on the gas or in front of the other (whichever the case may be), help keep our streets safe by looking both ways before you cross the street.