Despite 2009 law, pedestrians still in danger crossing streets

A survey by the Active Transportation Alliance reveals only 18 percent of drivers in the Chicago region are stopping for pedestrians in painted crosswalks, and only 5 percent are stopping for walkers trying to cross streets at unmarked crosswalks.

The Must Stop for Pedestrians law, passed in 2009, requires drivers to stop whenever a pedestrian has entered a crosswalk.

There were more than 4,700 reported pedestrian crashes, and 130 fatalities, in Illinois in 2012, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. Eighty-four percent of the crashes and 69 percent of pedestrian fatalities were in metro Chicago.

“Pedestrian injuries and fatalities are all-too-common in Chicagoland,” said Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance. “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.”

The Active Trans survey, which compared marked versus unmarked crosswalks on two-lane roadways, did 208 trials at 52 locations in the city of Chicago and nearby suburbs. Compliance 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.

“Many people are unaware of the law and believe that cars only have to stop for pedestrians when there is a ‘stop for pedestrians' sign at the crosswalk, and these signs led to much higher compliance in our survey,” said Burke. “But we aren't going to get ‘Must stop' signs at every crosswalk, so it's important that the public learn about this law.”

The Must Stop law is intended to encourage walking by helping pedestrians and those in wheelchairs or scooters get across streets safely. The law goes hand-in-hand with the state's Complete Streets policy for making streets accessible and safe for all users.

The Active Transportation Alliance is calling for greater driver education and better enforcement.

  A car stops for students in the crosswalk at Miller Road and Providence Drive in Carpentersville. Rick West/
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