At a press conference on June 12, 2017, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the release of Vision Zero, a plan for reducing roadway crashes in Chicago that had been three years in the making.
Vision Zero is an international road safety blueprint that Sweden first implemented decades ago and that other major cities have since adopted, including Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco.
Chicago’s Vision Zero plan involves utilizing eleven city departments in an effort to reduce serious injuries from traffic crashes by 35 percent and deaths by 20 percent by the year 2020, all with the ultimate goal of eliminating both by 2026.
High Crash Areas and Corridors
In formulating its plan, the city used historical crash data to identify 43 High Crash Corridors and eight High Crash Areas. The High Crash Areas include Downtown Chicago and the following neighborhoods:
- Belmont Cragin
- Near Northwest Side
- West Side
- Near West Side
- Washington Park
The city plans to roll out Vision Zero this summer with a pilot project in the Austin and Garfield Park neighborhoods, which will be funded by a $185,000 grant from the National Safety Council in Itasca. Chicago also plans to seek additional resources for Vision Zero in the future through partnerships with other levels of government, the public, and the private sector.
Dangers of Chicago Driving
According to statistics cited by the Vision Zero plan, over 2,000 people are seriously injured or killed in Chicago traffic crashes each year, with an average of five seriously injured each day and one person killed every three days. Moreover, crash-related serious injuries and deaths have increased 8 percent during the period from 2010 through 2014.
Economics and other factors also play a significant part in determining the extent and severity of these injuries. The Vision Zero plan notes that African-Americans make up almost half the city’s traffic deaths, while people living in areas noted for economic hardship are three times as likely to die from crashes. High Crash Areas are also noted for their large volumes of pedestrians and vehicles.
The Vision for Vision Zero
Chicago’s Vision Zero plan lays out four main goals:
- Invest in communities that are most affected by severe traffic crashes.
- Work to change behaviors and perceptions to build a culture of safety.
- Make streets safer for all users.
- Encourage and implement policies, training, and technologies to create safer vehicles and safer professional drivers.
During the first three years of Vision Zero’s implementation, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) plans to improve 300 intersections to enhance pedestrian safety. Such improvements may include “refuge islands” in the middle of busy arterials and curb “bump-outs” to reduce the distance pedestrians have to travel across streets.
CDOT will also coordinate with the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) to make targeted safety improvements to and in the vicinity of CTA stations and bus stops, particularly those in high crash zones, in order to encourage the use of mass transit.
Vision Zero further calls for more safety training for city employees and contractors and all city-regulated drivers, including those driving for the CTA, for taxi companies, and for ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft.
Additionally, the city plans to install safety equipment on large municipal trucks, including convex mirrors and sideguards that cover the area between the front and rear wheels in order to prevent bicyclists and pedestrians from being swept underneath trucks during crashes. The city will also propose an ordinance requiring private contractors to make the same improvements.
The Role of Law Enforcement
As for the role of Chicago police officers, Vision Zero plans for them to focus on “engagement events” and education in High Crash Areas, as well as to seek feedback from communities on what they need.
Notably, Vision Zero purports not to use increased traffic tickets as a measure for success. Traffic tickets have historically impacted poor communities disproportionately, with residents of minority areas complaining of overly zealous traffic enforcement. In fact, one recent study found that Chicago police issued more than twice as many bicycle citations in African-American neighborhoods as in white or Latino areas.
Chicago Roadway Crashes
Have you been injured in a Chicago roadway crash? If so, you need an experienced and dedicated attorney to fight for you. The Chicago roadway crash attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers have decades of experience bringing justice in cases exactly like this.
GWC prosecutes a wide variety of injury cases throughout Illinois, including those involving roadway crashes, workers’ compensation, construction accidents, medical malpractice, and product liability. If you or a loved one has been injured, in a roadway crash or in some other way, please contact our office for a free legal consultation to see if you may be eligible for financial compensation for your injuries. Call our office 24/7 at (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with one of our representatives today.