Can 'Life or Death' IDOT ads reverse Illinois' crash 'crisis'?

The Illinois Department of Transportation's "Life or Death" ad campaign aims to halt the state's crash "crisis."

The new ads popping up on television, radio and social media platforms avoid the usual suspects such as drinking and driving or buckling up.

Instead the program focuses on pedestrian, cyclist and motorcyclist collisions with vehicles, as well as distracted drivers.

In 2017, 1,098 people died in vehicle crashes in Illinois, the second year in a row in which fatalities topped 1,000. IDOT Secretary Randy Blankenhorn has called the situation a "crisis."

One 30-second ad pans over a shoe, cellphone, sunglasses and backpack strewed about a crosswalk. A distraught driver talks to police while a girl's voice says, "we all have to pay more attention, especially at crosswalks."

Actual state troopers and local police are featured in the spots. "We tried to present situations that are very realistic," IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell said.

An average of one cyclist or pedestrian is killed every week on suburban streets, a four-year Daily Herald analysis of IDOT data found in 2017.

Statewide, more than 150 cyclists or walkers are killed in crashes each year, IDOT data shows.

Those numbers suggest drivers, pedestrians and bikers aren't mindful of the life-changing consequences of one thoughtless move, Tridgell said. "Either they think they're invincible or are comfortable taking a chance."

The program costs $5.7 million and is funded with federal dollars. IDOT has contracted with the Carbondale-based Arthur Agency to produce the ads. The firm's CEO is Dennis Poshard, the son of former Democratic congressman Glenn Poshard.

Your voice

Annie Rosean of Mount Prospect reports a spike in near-misses while walking her kids to St. Raymond School over the past seven years. "Last year it happened more than usual. This year it is terrible!" Rosean wrote. "I've witnessed the crossing guards shouting at drivers who ignore them. I can't help but wonder if at least part of the problem is that the increase in automatic safety features is conditioning drivers to pay LESS attention to their surroundings."

Meanwhile Frank Tardio of Inverness has a counterpoint. "It seems to me that ever since there was increased publicity regarding pedestrian rights when crossing streets many people think that they have the right of way no matter what," he said.

"I often see people keep on going when they come to the street without even stopping. Many of these people don't even bother to look for cars. If I understand the law correctly, pedestrians have the right of way if they are already in the crosswalk. People also seem to not understand that the middle of the block is not a crosswalk."

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You should know

Is that a droid in the cash lanes at the Army Road Toll Plaza? It's actually a machine that signals the end of the familiar low-tech coin bucket. The tollway is rolling out the machines equipped with touch screens that accept coins, bills and credit cards on ramps and at some toll plazas across the system. The machines cost about $100,000 each and are supplied by Colorado-based BIT Mobility Solutions under a five-year, $33 million contract. Good news for I-PASS holders, you can cruise through lanes with the machines provided you have a mounted transponder.

Gridlock alert

Edens Expressway commuters should brace themselves for reconstruction on the Edens Spur toll road that revs up this week. On Monday, repairs will commence at the Edens Spur Toll Plaza with two of the cash lanes closed at a time. During the week of June 18, open road tolling lanes in each direction will close overnight starting at 7 p.m. and traffic will be directed to use the cash lanes. This year, work focuses on the Edens Spur between Lake-Cook and Pfingsten roads, the Illinois tollway reported.

Old tollway coin buckets on way out

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  Schaumburg Police question a man after a teenager was hit by a car at Higgins and Plum Grove roads in 2009. The Illinois Department of Transportation is targeting pedestrian and cyclist safety in an ad campaign. Mark Welsh/, 2009
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