While the total number of vehicles on the road has plummeted because of the coronavirus pandemic, analysts report that the rate of serious Chicago car accidents has been spiking.
Chicago Car Accidents Less Frequent, More Severe
Thanks to a combination of stay-at-home orders, remote work, cutbacks, and layoffs, there have been far fewer cars being driven in Chicago in recent weeks, but those who are still driving may not be doing so safely.
Following a rollover crash that shut down the southbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive, 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins noted that people have been driving irresponsibly on that popular thoroughfare and that the situation is especially dire at the S-curve near Oak Street.
“Traffic volume is down by an estimated 70 percent,” said Hopkins. “People have been complying, they’re staying home, the roads reflect that. But the few people that are driving are taking liberties and thinking that it’s okay to exceed the speed limit and drive recklessly.”
While there have been fewer Chicago car accidents overall, an analysis of city data shows that the severity of those accidents has increased slightly. In fact, the Northwestern University Transportation Center (NUTC) found that after the percentage of incapacitating or deadly crashes ticked up after the stay-at-home order went into effect.
“You had so much less traffic,” NUTC Director Hani Mahmassani explained. “That was so unusual. You’re so used to driving very slowly on Chicago streets, so when you had that, people’s natural instinct was to speed up.”
Mahmassani added that while severe crashes appear to be leveling off, the overall number of Chicago car accidents is now on a slight upward trend.
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), this upswing in serious crashes is also reflected in other states.
“In some states, anywhere from 50 percent to 70 percent less miles [are driven], but the fatalities are up,” said NSC President and CEO Lorraine Martin. “We really need to get to the root cause and understand what the behavior is that’s causing this kind of disturbing spike in very severe crashes.”
Speed Remains One of the Biggest Factors
Analysts agree that speed is one of the biggest factors leading to serious Chicago car accidents. The Chicago Department of Transportation warned of a 14 percent increase in speeding on city roadways. In response, the Chicago Police Department and the Illinois State Police said they have both increased visibility and implemented targeted patrol efforts.
But Hopkins said that law enforcement can only do so much in addressing this problem, alleging that police officers might be less likely to make traffic stops because of concerns about contracting the coronavirus. He is advocating for local measures such as straightening out the S-curve on Lake Shore Drive, and he further believes that automated traffic enforcement in the form of red light and speed cameras may provide a way forward, despite common concerns about corruption and unfair ticketing practices.
“When you take those two elements out of it, people will support automated traffic enforcement and compliance goes up,” he explained. “The goal is not to make money off of traffic scofflaws. The goal is to get everyone to operate their vehicle in a safe manner and comply with the traffic laws.”
Experts also noted that traffic volumes are not going to return to normal levels any time soon, so it is incumbent upon drivers to slow down for the public good.
“Whether it’s on the S-curve or the Kennedy or the Dan Ryan, wherever you are, those roads are not safer just because they’re less congested,” Hopkins said.
“Driving safely right now is our civic duty,” added Martin. “If anybody wants to know what they can do right now to help with the pandemic, it’s make sure that you’re driving safely so that we aren’t [diverting] resources to a very preventable action.”
Are You a Chicago Car Accident Victim?
If you are the unfortunate victim of a Chicago car accident during this difficult time, you may find it challenging to obtain full and fair financial compensation for your injuries. To help overcome any obstacles you face, do what thousands of others have done before you and reach out to the car accident attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers LLC.
GWC is one of the premier Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation law firms in Illinois, with over $2 billion recovered in verdicts and settlements on behalf of our clients. Let our Chicago car accident lawyers help get you and your family the justice you deserve.
GWC would also like to personally thank all of the first responders, healthcare workers, grocery store and pharmacy employees, bank tellers, and delivery drivers who are fighting on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak every day. We continue to stand with you.