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About one-third of all work trips in Chicago are comprised of people biking, walking, or riding public transit.

Active Trans survey shows only 18 percent of drivers stop for pedestrians in painted crosswalks

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Chicagoland has much work to do when it comes to compliance with the Must Stop for Pedestrians law, which requires people driving to stop whenever a pedestrian has entered a crosswalk.

According to a recent survey we performed, drivers stopped only 18 percent of the time when people on foot attempted to cross a street in a traditional painted crosswalk.

As reported in an article about the survey in the Chicago Tribune, compliance was even lower — only 5 percent — at “unmarked crosswalks” — crosswalks with no paint on the road or other safety features. Under the law, a crosswalk is present whenever a sidewalk leads into the street, whether it’s marked or not.

There were more than 4,700 reported pedestrian crashes with 130 fatalities in Illinois in 2012, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation; 84 percent of the crashes and 69 percent of pedestrian fatalities in Illinois occurred in metro Chicago.

In the city of Chicago, pedestrian fatalities accounted for one-third of all traffic fatalities in 2012, compared to roughly 14 percent statewide.

The survey compared marked versus unmarked crosswalks on two lane roadways at 52 locations in the city of Chicago and nearby suburban communities.

We found that compliance with the law was significantly higher — 61 percent — at painted crosswalks with other safety features, like the in-road “stop for pedestrians” signs, brick or stone crosswalks, raised crosswalks, or flashing beacons.

The Must Stop law is intended to help pedestrians — which include people on foot as well as those using wheelchairs or scooters — get across streets safely. It also provides clear direction to motorists on their responsibilities and it gives police well-defined guidelines for regulation and ticketing.

The law encourages walking by allowing pedestrians to cross a roadway at any legal crosswalk, which is especially important where controlled crosswalks are far apart, at school crossings, and in retail areas.

The law goes hand-in-hand with the state’s Complete Streets policy for making streets accessible and safe for all users, as well as the city of Chicago’s “Zero in Ten” campaign to eliminate pedestrian fatalities by the year 2022.

In 2009, Active Trans successfully led a campaign to pass the Must Stop for Pedestrians law. Before that, the law only required drivers to yield. Active Trans rallied support from lawmakers, as well as backing from AARP Illinois, Access Living, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Illinois State Police.

While the accuracy of the survey’s results for the region as a whole is somewhat limited by its scope and design, the results clearly show that Chicagoland motorists were significantly more noncompliant with the law than they were compliant. 

Pedestrian injuries and fatalities are all-too-common in Chicagoland. We feel that better compliance with the Must Stop for Pedestrians law not only would save lives, but would make people feel more inclined to walk in their communities.

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