As a major metropolitan center, Chicago’s streets are almost always bustling. Cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians all mingle on the roadways, particularly in the downtown area. Pedestrian activity is an integral part of the city’s vibrant metropolitan area, however, in such a busy area, accidents are an inevitability. Pedestrians are extremely vulnerable and when cars are involved, approximately 33 percent of the time pedestrians are fatally injured. In Chicago the number of pedestrian crashes the past decade range between 3,000 – 4,000 annually. The city has a number of pedestrian safety programs in place to reduce these numbers and conducts extensive analysis on pedestrian accidents in order to improve the situation.
Pedestrian Accidents in Chicago
While a pedestrian accident may take place anywhere there are pedestrians and motor vehicles sharing the road, certain areas in Chicago dominate statistically. The neighborhoods that have the highest rate of pedestrian accidents in Chicago are as follows:
- Near North Side
- Near West Side
- Belmont Cragin
- West Town
- Auburn Gresham
- Humboldt Park
Outside of these areas, certain corridors also show high crash indexes including 79th from King to Stony Island, Cicero from Harrison to Chicago, and 63rd from California to Ashland.
In Chicago, intersections present particular dangerous for pedestrians and around 78 percent of all pedestrian crashes with serious injuries or fatalities between 2005 and 2009 happened in these areas. This is much higher than the national average where only 46 percent of pedestrian/vehicle collisions took place at intersections. It is probable that Chicago’s dense grid design and short block lengths are a contributing factor for this.
Causes of Pedestrian Accidents
While both driver and pedestrian may be guilty of causing the accident, when only the motorists actions are taken into account, there are three main types of pedestrian accidents in Chicago.
- Failure of the Driver to Yield – Of all the actions taken by motorists, “failure to yield” is the primary reason cited for crashes. They make up approximately 48 percent of cases, both fatal and nonfatal.
- Motor Vehicles Turning at Intersections – Turns at signalized intersections are also very dangerous for pedestrians and cited as the most frequent maneuver cars were performing at the time of the impact. Accidents occur nearly twice as frequently with left turning vehicles as opposed to right turning ones.
- Hit and Run Accidents – Sadly, a third of pedestrian accidents in Chicago are hit-and-run crashes. They account for 40 percent of fatal crashes, twice as high as the national rate in which hit-and-runs made up 20 percent of fatal pedestrians accidents.
Common Injuries Related to Pedestrian Accidents
In the U.S., roughly 1 pedestrian is killed every 113 minutes and injured every 8 minutes due to motor vehicle crashes. Pedestrians usually sustain multiple injuries, making evaluation difficult initially. The type of injuries sustained depend on a variety of factors including how fast the vehicle was moving, what type of vehicle, the main point of contact, the age of the pedestrian, and what they were carrying with them. Some of the most common injuries pedestrian accident victims sustain include:
- Head Trauma – There is a very high incidence of head injuries in vehicle-pedestrian impacts because pedestrians are very likely to strike their heads on or around the windshield when hit by a car. Head traumas range from concussions to skull fractures, subdural hemorrhages, and traumatic brain injuries.
- Spinal Injuries – Many pedestrians, particularly older ones are at risk for spinal injuries from car impacts. In fact, spinal injuries are up to 21 times more likely for adults older than 65 as compared to children because of factors like osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Spinal injuries can lead to nerve damage, partial loss of sensation or motor functions, and even full paralysis. An individual case of spinal damage can cost anywhere from $500,000 to $2 million to treat for the remainder of the patient’s life.
- Chest Injuries – Between 20-25 percent of pedestrian deaths in vehicle-pedestrian collisions are from thoracic injuries. Deadlier injuries include airway obstruction, cardiac tamponade, massive haemothorax, aortic rupture, and pulmonary contusion, amongst others.
- Abdominal Injuries – Various types of abdominal injuries can occur during impacts, both visible and nonvisible including renal, gastro, splenic, and liver injuries. The incidence of these type of injuries is roughly the same across all ages of pedestrians.
- Injuries to the Extremities – Pedestrians sustain a range of injuries in their extremities including soft tissue injuries, knee injuries, and fractures in the tibia and femur as well as the pelvic region. Injuries of this type are particularly prevalent because of their position and the car impacting in this region.
Recovery for pedestrians after an collision with a motor vehicle nearly always requires extensive medical treatment, physical therapy, and management of injuries. For many, a full recovery is never possible.
Pedestrian Rights After an Accident
Pedestrians who are injured as the result of an impact with a vehicle are entitled to compensation for their injuries. Because of the nature of pedestrian accidents it is likely that the pedestrian would need compensation for medical bills, loss of income/wages, and pain and suffering related to the crash. The injured pedestrian typically must deal with the insurance company of the at-fault driver and seek a settlement this way or take the case to court if the other party is uncooperative.