Mannequins representing dead pedestrians were placed along Wacker Drive downtown on Tuesday to focus public attention on fatal crashes in Chicago involving vehicles and people on foot, officials said.
The move to shock drivers into being on the lookout and yielding to pedestrians is part of a new large-scale safety effort aimed at reducing injuries and fatalities citywide, officials said.
The campaign kicked off with the installation of 32 mannequins along Wacker Drive from Michigan Avenue to Wells Street, representing 32 pedestrians killed in 2010 crashes.
The safety program is being conducted by the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Chicago Police Department with funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“You’ll notice that some of it is sort of hard-hitting, some of it may even be a little bit shocking,’’ said CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein. “But we want to remind people that when you are frustrated behind the wheel, these are real people and real lives we are talking about here. Please take that into consideration when you are driving, when you are riding your bike and when you are walking to look out for those around you.’’
In addition to the mannequins, other high-profile elements of the campaign will include messages on bus shelters, trash bins and information panels posted on sidewalks; and outreach to taxi drivers, schools and senior citizen centers.
About 80 percent of vehicle-pedestrian crashes in Chicago occur at intersections and commonly involve people crossing the street with the walk signal, according to a new city study released this summer. The No. 1 cause of the accidents was drivers failing to yield, the analysis found.
Cabdrivers were involved in 28 percent of pedestrian crashes and 34 percent of pedestrian accidents in high-crash corridors downtown, the study said. The rate fell to 2 percent outside the central business district.
The study also revealed an increasing number of hit-and-runs across the city.
As part of the new campaign, small crossing flags will be installed in neighborhoods and pedestrian safety messages will be stenciled on sidewalks in high traffic areas around the city, officials said.
CDOT and the police department will continue crosswalk-enforcement initiatives, aimed at getting more drivers to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. Such stings involve plainclothes police officers posing as pedestrians crossing streets in crosswalks as vehicles approach intersections. Drivers who fail to stop are ticketed. A new state law requires drivers to stop, not simply yield, for pedestrians.
Almost 3,000 crashes involving pedestrians occurred in Chicago last year.
Between 2005 and 2009, 17,487 crashes involving 18,376 pedestrians took place in the city. Pedestrian fatalities in Chicago hit a 16-year low in 2009 with 34 deaths, down from 88 deaths in 1994, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun