Summit planned to stop rising tide of fatal traffic crashes

The number of people dying in traffic crashes in Illinois is "going in the wrong direction," said Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn, who intends to convene a safety summit to address the problem.

In 2016, 1,078 pedestrians, cyclists and people in vehicles were killed in crashes in Illinois. Last year that number rose to 1,098.

"This has become the second year in a row we have more than 1,000 fatalities ... we have got to figure out a way to make the transportation system safer for all users," Blankenhorn said Monday at the 2018 Illinois Bike Summit sponsored by Ride Illinois.

There were 998 crash deaths in Illinois in 2015.

Blankenhorn has already enlisted advice from a task force that included "nontraditional" stakeholders.

A recent export from the task force is offering "a lot of new communications strategies about how we talk about (safety), how we work with local governments where more than half the fatalities exist," Blankenhorn said. "We need new partners ... we need fresh thinking."

He hopes to hold the safety summit this fall and involve community groups and municipalities in addition to police and engineering experts.

As of Monday, 321 people had died in traffic crashes in Illinois in 2018, including 46 pedestrians and three cyclists.

"That's 49 people that aren't going home. That's 49 families that won't see a loved one again," Blankenhorn said of the pedestrian and bike fatalities.

At Monday's summit, experts discussed ways to make cycling less hazardous. In a case study of the busy intersection of Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues in Chicago, city planners discussed how low-cost and relatively easy fixes are impacting safety. These included wider crosswalks, removing parked cars and installing bollards, or posts, separating vehicles from people.

Every week on average, at least one driver strikes and kills a cyclist or pedestrian on suburban streets, a Daily Herald analysis of Illinois Department of Transportation data from 2012 to 2015 found.

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