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Surge In Pedestrian Deaths Shows No Sign Of Slowing: Data

By Heather Cherone | February 21, 2017 6:03am
 Noah Katz, 2, died after being struck by a van in the 4700 block of North Central Avenue Nov. 13.
Noah Katz, 2, died after being struck by a van in the 4700 block of North Central Avenue Nov. 13.
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YouCaring/Alex Nitkin

CHICAGO — Fourty-four pedestrians were killed in the city in 2016, up 26 percent from 2014, according to data presented to the mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

Nationwide, pedestrian deaths increased approximately 10 percent in 2015, making Chicago's increase especially troubling, Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld said.

"It is very sad," Scheinfeld said, adding that city officials would redouble their efforts to achieve the city's goal of eliminating death and serious injuries from traffic crashes by 2026 as part of the mayor's Vision Zero campaign.

A "significant number" of fatal pedestrian crashes occur in crosswalks — and end with the driver fleeing the scene, Scheinfeld said.

The number of pedestrians killed by motorists has been on the rise since 2013, when 29 people were killed while walking Chicago's streets, according to data compiled by city traffic engineers and the Illinois Department of Transportation. It dipped slightly last year.

The increase in fatal crashes involving pedestrians showed no sign of slowing down in the first weeks of 2017, with six people killed. In January 2016, five people died as a result of crashes.

Chicago Department of Transportation

The Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety offices, found that an increase in motor vehicle travel and the growing use of cellphones among walkers and drivers could be among the reasons for the increase in the number of fatal crashes involving pedestrians.

Chicago Police Department Deputy Chief of Patrol George Devereux blamed the increase in deaths on "reckless driving by young people."

The increase in deaths has hit areas of Chicago where the level of economic hardship is highest, officials said.

City officials said they planned to concentrate their efforts in 14 neighborhoods that make up 20 percent of the city and 25 percent of its population — but account for 35 percent of all traffic-related injuries and deaths.

Those neighborhoods are:

• Belmont-Cragin
• Austin
• West Garfield Park
• East Garfield Park
• North Lawndale 
• Humboldt Park
• West Town
• Near West Side
• Near North
• Loop
• West Englewood
• Englewood
• Washington Park
• Grand Boulevard

An action plan is under development based on the pattern of traffic crashes that will include an education plan and could propose street redesigns to make areas safer, officials said.