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How Do You Commute? Traffic Accident Realities for Riders, Drivers, Pedestrians and Cyclists

Different Ways to Commute and Get AroundDoes the way you choose to travel to work impact your likelihood of arriving in one piece? Although plenty of people are on-board with the concept of cycling for health or riding public transit for the environment, few consider changing their commuting practices for safety reasons. Here’s why they should probably start.

Commuting Around the US

It’s hard to get a feel for just how many accident victims got into collisions while they were on their way to work. In spite of highly detailed police reports, statistics agencies don’t really keep such fine-grained data. What one can reasonably say, however, is that commuters probably follow similar trends to those seen in the general population, albeit with a few critical distinctions.

The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics keeps records dating back to 1960 regarding the different kinds of fatalities that occur throughout the national transit grid. In 2017, for instance, there were 37,133 reported highway fatalities. Of these:

  • 13,363 involved the drivers or occupants of passenger cars,
  • 10,188 involved the occupants of light trucks, like pickups,
  • 5,172 resulted in motorcyclist deaths,
  • 5,977 involved pedestrians,
  • 783 involved bicyclists, and
  • 44 involved bus occupants.

These data seem to suggest that driving motorized vehicles is one of the most risk-prone methods of commuting, but it’s important to take a broader look at the context. For instance, the skewed rate may reflect that far fewer commuters ride bicycles instead of definitively proving that bikes are safer — as lots of anecdotal evidence would appear to hint.

Certain types of transportation are also noteworthy for their particular risk. Motorcycle deaths stand out because they’re so high even though only a small percentage of people own or ride.

Getting Around More Safely in Illinois

Don’t think that you’re excused from needing to take precautions just because some numbers said so. Each commute is different, so the way you manage your daily travels has a considerable impact on how safe they are. For instance, if you worked weekends or graveyard shifts, then your need to drive on Saturdays and at odd hours might place you in greater danger.

Where you live can also impact your accident likelihood. For instance, Chicago’s Vision Zero Initiative designated certain parts of the city as High Crash Areas and High Crash Corridors, or zones and communities that were disproportionately impacted by severe wrecks. Contrary to what you might assume, these regions aren’t restricted to one area or particularly dangerous stretch of highway. Instead, they crop up everywhere from Belmont-Cragin to Englewood, and their existence reflects numerous hazard factors, such as poor transit design, infrastructural deficits, and lacking pedestrian- and cyclist-specific facilities.

What Can Commuters Do?

Safety initiatives and improvements in traffic laws have been changing the outlook in positive ways for decades. Experience has demonstrated that dashed bike lanes, smarter speed limits, clearer signage and community engagement can all reduce fatalities and injuries. The issue is that these projects take time, and if you’re a commuter who’s been in an accident, then it can be understandably difficult to appreciate the improvements after the fact.

Fortunately, the trend towards enhanced safety awareness bodes well for those who’ve already been hurt. Accident survivors and families may be able to leverage existing statistics and data in the courtroom: By arguing that cities negligently contributed to accidents or failed to remedy known safety hazards, victims may be able to broaden the scope of their lawsuits and potentially improve their chances of receiving payouts.

Dealing with the grind of a dangerous daily commute is a fact of life for many Illinoisans. Personal precautions, such as staying aware behind the wheel, using high-visibility gear when cycling and crossing intersections safely on foot, are critical to surviving hazardous situations, but it’s also important to have a well-informed legal backup plan. If things go wrong, turning to the court may be the wisest way to ensure that you receive compensation for your injuries, property losses, unemployability and other hardships.