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A deadly year for pedestrians: 48 die in Chicago in 2012

A white ghost bike memory Neill Townsend who was hit by car died Oct. 5 2012 corner N. Wells St.

A white ghost bike in memory of Neill Townsend, who was hit by a car and died on Oct. 5, 2012, at the corner of N. Wells St. and W. Oak St. in Chicago, Ill., on Friday, January 18, 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 23, 2013 6:06AM



Forty-eight pedestrians were killed on city streets last year — the worst numbers Chicago has seen since 2008.

That’s an increase from the past three years when 35, 30 and 31 pedestrians were killed, respectively, according to Chicago Police. The numbers are closer to 2008, when 52 pedestrians were killed.

The number of bicyclists killed in crashes — eight last year — was also slightly up, a reflection of the growing number of cyclists in Chicago. The number of bike crashes reported to police rose by 38 percent between 2001 and 2011.

Mother Nature, the economy and distracted driving are some factors that may have contributed to more pedestrian deaths last year.

“The weather was better. It was relatively mild, especially in the winter,” Active Transportation Alliance Director Ron Burke said. “And driving went back up for the first time in a while. ... It looks like probably more people were out walking because of the mild weather. That alone creates potentially, unfortunately, some additional crashes.”

Others say distracted driving is also a key factor: “People are more distracted. All you need to do is look around and see everyone on a cellphone, texting or listening to music and not paying attention to the road,” said Jose Ucles, spokesman at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

August was an especially deadly month for pedestrians, when 11 were killed in crashes citywide, including Eric Kerestes, who was sitting on a CTA bench at Milwaukee and Ogden when he was struck by a taxi.

In November, 87-year-old Wayne Davis died days after being hit by a car in a hit-and-run crash near Broadway and Lawrence. Davis’ death was one of 23 hit-and-run crashes last year involving pedestrians, according to Chicago Police. One of the eight fatal crashes involving bicyclists also involved a hit-and-run.

Chicago’s numbers follow a national trend that shows an increase of traffic fatalities of all types. In data from January through September — the latest available — the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said traffic fatalities increased by 7.1 percent over the same nine months in 2011. That represents the largest such increase since 1975 — the first year when NHTSA started collecting data on traffic fatalities, the study found.

A spokesman for the city Department of Transportation called the increase in pedestrian fatalities “unfortunate.”

Chicago is working to increase the number of traffic safety measures, as outlined in the city’s pedestrian plan unveiled last year, said spokesman Pete Scales.

Those measures include starting automated speed enforcement, adding more protected bike lanes and targeting crash hot spots for “interventions in engineering and enforcement.”

“Many of our safety initiatives are prioritized using crash data to target the intersections and other locations that need the most attention,” Scales said.



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