What Chicago Pedestrians Need To Know: Safety Programs

My Chicago injury attorney colleague, Jonathan Rosenfeld
and I were recently talking about the severity of injuries sustained by
pedestrians in our cities. As lawyers who represent victims of these
accidents we were discussing some preventative measures our respective
cities can take to help make walking though our cities a little safer.
Jonathan was kind enough to share some the ambitious safety plans that
Chicago is implementing to reduce the number of pedestrian accidents and
fatalities.

In 2011, the city of Chicago put together an analysis of the pedestrian accidents
that happened between 2005 and 2009 involving motor vehicles. The study
is part of an ongoing initiative to improve pedestrian safety and
increase awareness of the issue in the Chicago area. The crash analysis
is the first part of the city’s agenda to create a “Pedestrain Plan”
that will target safety measures for pedestrians and a public awareness
campaign on safety.

Safety Programs to Make Getting Around Chicago a Little Safer

The city of Chicago has implemented many programs over the years to
target pedestrian safety. These programs will be instrumental in the
ongoing investigation into how the city can make the streets of Chicago
safer for pedestrians. Several programs are in place to increase
pedestrian safety.

  • The Mayor’s Pedestrain Advisory Council. This council meets four
    times a year to discuss pedestrian safety. The members of the council
    include representation from different city departments along with people
    from the health care, enforcement, disability rights and other
    community groups. The council discusses pedestrian issues pertaining to
    safety, public awareness, enforcement and brainstorms on ideas for
    pedestrian planning.
  • Safe Streets For Chicago. This initiative was started in 2006 and
    combined existing programs and initiatives working towards pedestrian
    safety. It is comprised of the Chicago Police and Transportation
    Departments along with the Office of Emergency Management and
    Communications.
  • Safe Routes Ambassadors. This is Chicago’s outreach team to teach
    pedestrian and bicycle safety to children. The ambassadors meet with
    thousands of children each year through the elementary school system
    doing in-class presentations and on-foot training.
  • Safe Routes For Seniors. Focusing on seniors, this program conducts
    awareness seminars at local senior centers, residences and health fairs
    on walking benefits and safety.
  • Pedestrian Safety Enforcement. This encompasses continuing efforts
    to enforce pedestrian safety laws, especially in known high-crash areas.
    Off-duty undercover policeman have been posing as pedestrians to catch
    motorists who do not yield.
  • Countdown Timers. These timers have been installed across the city
    to help reduce pedestrian crashes at intersections. The timers let
    pedestrians know how much time they have to cross and have been proven
    effective in reducing accidents.
  • Refuge Islands/Curb Extensions/Signal Timing. These initiatives are
    being implemented by the CDOT and increase the amount of time traffic
    signals allow for pedestrian crossing and reduce the amount of distance
    they must cover to cross the street. This is especially beneficial for
    children and senior safety.
  • Traffic Calming. These tools help slow down traffic using speed
    humps and bumps, traffic circles, curb bump outs and street closures.
    They all focus on slowing or reducing traffic, especially in residential
    areas.

Pedestrian safety resources:

http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/supp_info/traffic_calming.html
http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/cdot/pedestrian/2011PedestrianCrashAnalysisSummaryReport.pdf#page=4

I-75 AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENTS PILEUP WAS AVOIDABLE
July 30th, 2012

On January 29, 2012 at 3:26
am the stretch of I-75 through Paynes Prairie in Alachua County was
reopened afterhours of closure.  For several hours vehicles had been
rerouted to a two-lane road due to smoke and fog on the Interstate
Highway.  The smoke had already caused a number of automobile accidents on
nearby US-441 and was so thick that visibility was non-existent.  At
around 3 am, asustained wind pushed the smoke away from the roadway for
twenty minutes.  Unfortunately, a breakdown of the system led the
authorities to believe this brief window of visibility on the road was
enough to justify reopening the road.  We all remember what happened
next; what has been described by survivors as a series of accidents and
explosions that “seemed like the end of the world.”  Eleven people dead,
more than twenty hospitalized, and twenty-five destroyed vehicles
resulted from the worst series of vehicle accidents in Florida history.

 

As it turns out, these car wrecks may
have been easily avoidable.  Investigative Reporters with the
Gainesville Sun have uncovered a number of recommendations and policies
that weren’t followed in the buildup to this most unfortunate
tragedy.  January 29th wasn’t the first time a Florida
Highway had been reduced to wreckage from smoke.  Just four years
earlier, a smoke and fog-covered I-4 through Polk County was the scene
of destruction on an evenmore massive scale.  Seventy vehicles were
destroyed in the accidents on January 8th.  Fortunately, the
number of dead was limited to five during the 2008 tragedy; less than
half the number killed in the 2012 Paynes Prairie pileup.  The
authorities realized that policy would need to address the problem of
smoke and fog on interstates and other highways.  A decision was made
that the Florida Highway Patrol, the fire management department of the
Florida Forest Service and the State Transportation Department would
work together to address these dangerous situations as an
interdepartmental task force.

 

On January 29th of 2012, that task force failed.  A
communication breakdown and improper training in addressing smoke and
fog situations led to information being lost in the late evening of
January 28 2012.  Late night officers for the FHP were not notified of
the Forest Service warning them of the possibility of smoke coming from
the Paynes Prairie fire.  The on-duty Forest Service officer was
guaranteed that the midnight officers would be told about the fire, and
the possibility of smoke or fog disrupting traffic on nearby
I-75.  Instead the file on the Prairie Fire was closed after an officer
noticed the fire had subsided just 20 minutes later.  The midnight
officers were never warned of the obvious dangers, and were forced to
address the overnight problems without the necessary information.  It
wasn’t until after 1:00 am that an officer realized that the smoke
shrouding I-75 was coming from the Prairie itself, not neighboring
Putnam County.  That same officer objected to the reopening of I-75
shortly after 3 am, an objection that wasignored by superiors.  The
chaos was began and ended in the span of the next hour.

 

The question everyone is forced to ask next is: how did they decide
to re-open the highway?  Again, the answer is simple: There is no
distinct policy concerning either how to open and close roads or how to
respond to issues involving the combination of smoke and fog on
roadways.  Officers were not trained properly on how to address these
conditions and not informed of the appropriate authority for using the
required departmental checklist for road closure and re-opening.   The
current policy allows anyone to open a closed roadway, is ambiguous as
to who is responsible for applying the checklist, and lacks any sort of
guidance as to when the road should remainclosed.  It’s basically a
“just use your best judgment” policy; and one that investigators said
needed to be amended after the 2008 tragedy in Polk county in which a
chain event of automobile accidents occurred.

 

These are just some of the reasons that the Paynes Prairie tragedy
occurred.  And it’s unclear as to whether following the policies and
recommendations that were ignored would’ve saved lives.  But one thing
is for certain, that road should not have been open to traffic in
theearly morning hours of January 29th, and many people suffered because the system failed to protect them.

 

It’s a tough pill to swallow when government officers fail to protect
the public.  And that is because our taxes pay these individuals to
keep us safe.  But the blame doesn’t fall solely on the policy
enforcers, but also on the policy makers.  Recommendations which should
have become policy or statutory law following the 2008 tragedy remained
just recommendations.  The lawmakers have been standing still, not
addressing glaring issues with public safety.  In a time where texting-while-driving is
one of the undisputed leading dangers of injury and death on the road,
Florida is one of the few states that has failed to enact a statute
banning the act.  These safety policies are just a few of the necessary
changes that will make Florida drivers safe on the roads.  Until then,
awareness of your surroundings is left up to you.  So remember to be
aware of your surroundings, never drive distracted, and to try and
inform yourself of weather conditions if traveling on interstate
highways.  And if you are involved in an accident, consult an
experienced accident attorney to ensure that your rights are protected.

It’s a tough pill to swallow when government officers fail to protect
the public.  And that is because our taxes pay these individuals to
keep us safe.  But the blame doesn’t fall solely on the policy
enforcers, but also on the policy makers.  Recommendations which should
have become policy or statutory law following the 2008 tragedy remained
just recommendations.

View Attorney Profile

Matthew A. Dolman, Esq.

Licensed since 2004

Member at firm Dolman Law Group

RECENT POSTS

  • Florida Brain Injury Attorney Focuses on National Brain Injury Awareness Month
    Posted on November 5, 2012
    Topic: Head and Spinal Injuries

    October is National Brain Injury Awareness Month. The Brain Injury Association of America seeks to make use of this time to promote a deeper understanding about the 1 million individuals in the U.S. who sufferfrom traumatic brain injury. Brain injuries range from mild, with very few or no lasting symptoms, to severe, such that the injury ... Read more

  • Changes To Florida Slip And Fall Law
    Posted on October 9, 2012
    Topic: Personal Injury

    You’re walking through the grocery store, looking for the last item on your list. Somehow, you missed it on your first pass though. You march through, retracing your steps, with the discipline of a trained soldier through the fervor of the capitalist battlefield. Unfortunately, your advance is disrupted by a jar of pickles that exploded ... Read more

  • HOW INSURANCE CARRIERS DEAL WITH MINOR IMPACT SOFT TISSUE CASES
    Posted on August 29, 2012
    Topic: Personal Injury

    When you hear of a minor fender bender and one of the parties claims they’re experiencing whiplash, what’s your first thought? For many people the answer is, “That guy’s faking it.” Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the MIST (Minor Impact Soft Tissue) cases and the propaganda behind such. MIST stands for “minor impact soft tissue.” ... Read more

Matthew A. Dolman, Esq.

Licensed since 2004

Member at firm Dolman Law Group

RECENT POSTS

  • Florida Brain Injury Attorney Focuses on National Brain Injury Awareness Month
    Posted on November 5, 2012
    Topic: Head and Spinal Injuries

    October is National Brain Injury Awareness Month. The Brain Injury Association of America seeks to make use of this time to promote a deeper understanding about the 1 million individuals in the U.S. who sufferfrom traumatic brain injury. Brain injuries range from mild, with very few or no lasting symptoms, to severe, such that the injury ... Read more

  • Changes To Florida Slip And Fall Law
    Posted on October 9, 2012
    Topic: Personal Injury

    You’re walking through the grocery store, looking for the last item on your list. Somehow, you missed it on your first pass though. You march through, retracing your steps, with the discipline of a trained soldier through the fervor of the capitalist battlefield. Unfortunately, your advance is disrupted by a jar of pickles that exploded ... Read more

  • HOW INSURANCE CARRIERS DEAL WITH MINOR IMPACT SOFT TISSUE CASES
    Posted on August 29, 2012
    Topic: Personal Injury

    When you hear of a minor fender bender and one of the parties claims they’re experiencing whiplash, what’s your first thought? For many people the answer is, “That guy’s faking it.” Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the MIST (Minor Impact Soft Tissue) cases and the propaganda behind such. MIST stands for “minor impact soft tissue.” ... Read more