Is Chicago’s Traffic Safety Initiative Working?
In 2017, then-mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a plan to end traffic deaths and serious injuries in the city of Chicago by 2026. Now, several years after this announcement, it’s a good time to look at the progress the city has made toward achieving this goal.
Vision Zero So Far
The Vision Zero plan follows along similar plans in major cities throughout the United States. At its core is the principle that car accidents are not accidents, but preventable events, and that the injuries and fatalities caused by them are unacceptable.
Right off the bat, Chicago got to work, making infrastructure improvements such as adding 16 miles of new bikeways, installing speed feedback signs at critical locations to tell drivers how fast they are going and passing an ordinance requiring life-saving side guards on large trucks. Clearly, the city is taking this initiative seriously. In fact, late last year, the city unveiled an additional $6 million plan to fix dangerous roadways on the south and west sides of Chicago.
But is it working?
Here’s the good news: According to data gathered by Streets Blog, 2019 saw the number of fatalities suffered in motor vehicle accidents drop by about 20 percent. 25 fewer people died in car wrecks than the year prior, which is wonderful. However, the goal is to get to 0. The 91 traffic deaths that occurred in 2019 is still unacceptable.
The data shows that there was little movement in reducing pedestrian deaths. And these are not just deaths from pedestrians crossing the street. The number includes people in alleys and even waiting at bus stops. Unfortunately, many of these cases involved a hit and run.
Thankfully, there is a definite focus on pedestrian safety as part of the Vision Zero plan, so with continued work the number of overall fatalities will continue to drop.