Motorists’ Noncompliance with Illinois’ ‘Must Stop for Pedestrians Law’ Raises Safety Concerns in Chicago

The Pedestrian Accident Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. take note of a concerning problem that continues to plague those that travel by foot in the Chicago area-crosswalk safety. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, pedestrian fatalities in Chicago were more than double the nationwide average in 2012. Many of these fatalities occurred at pedestrian crossings. As Accident & Injury Lawyers, we find this highly troubling, particularly given the 2010 revisions to right-of-way laws in Illinois, which many expected would have significantly enhanced the safety of pedestrians throughout the city.

As suggested by an article in the Chicago Tribune, failure to comply with pedestrian crossing laws can at least, in part, be attributed to drivers’ unawareness of the law, as it was revised in 2010. Under the old law, drivers were only required to yield to pedestrians. However, in finding that this yield-only requirement was a law that was difficult to interpret, as well as difficult to enforce, the state amended it in 2010 to include a provision requiring drivers to both stop and yield at crosswalks. The 2010 revisions to Illinois Vehicle Code regarding ‘Pedestrians’ right-of-way at crosswalks,’ as set forth in 625 ILCS 5/11-1002(a), provides that:

“When traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation the driver of a vehicle shall stop and yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.”

[emphasis added]

While for some drivers failure to adhere to the law is due to motorists’ outright obliviousness to the new stop-requirement, for others, they are in fact familiar with the law, but do not fully understand when they are actually required to stop. In particular, for many there is confusion as to precisely how Illinois law defines a crosswalk. Pursuant to 625 ILCS 5/1-113, a “Crosswalk” is defined as:

“(a) That part of a roadway at an intersection included within the connections of the lateral lines of the sidewalks on opposite sides of the highway measured from the curbs or, in the absence of curbs, from the edges of the traversable roadway, and in the absence of a sidewalk on one side of the highway, that part of the highway included within the extension of the lateral line of the existing sidewalk to the side of the highway without the sidewalk, with such extension forming a right angle to the centerline of the highway;
(b) Any portion of a roadway at an intersection or elsewhere distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface placed in accordance with the provisions in the Manual adopted by the Department of Transportation as authorized in Section 11-301.”

Stated simply, regardless of pavement markings or signage, a sidewalk is created wherever a sidewalk leads into a street-and where a sidewalk exists, motorists must stop and yield for pedestrians. Yet, despite this requirement, many drivers continue to disobey the law, putting pedestrians at great risk for injury or death caused by these motorist’s negligent and unlawful actions.

In addition to crash data, the ongoing issue over noncompliance with the law, is supported by recent data collected through a study conducted by the Active Transportation Alliance. As provided in an overview of this observational study, released in August 2014, which observed and compared motorists/pedestrians at 52 sites of marked and unmarked crosswalks in the Chicago area, “it is apparent that Chicagoland motorists were significantly more noncompliant with the law than they were compliant.”

Most concerning for pedestrians, as this study concluded, are the variations amongst compliance rates at each type of crosswalk-5 % at unmarked crosswalks; 18 % common marked (painted) crosswalks; and 61% at crosswalks that are both marked and have other safety features (i.e. bricks, raised, in-street signage, parkway signage, flashing beacons). What this data indicated is that both motorist compliance and pedestrian safety can be improved through the use of more roadway indicators which notify motorists of the presence of a pedestrian crossing.

Lack of enforcement has also been identified as an additional factor which has contributed to motorists’ failure to abide by the 2010 amendments to crosswalk right-of-way law in Illinois, commonly referred to as the ‘Must Stop for Pedestrians Law.’ As noted by Executive Director of the Active Transportation Alliance, Ron Burke, and discussed by the Chicago Tribune, installing ‘must stop’ signs at every crosswalk would be impractical, and therefore gaps in compliance must be filled through promoting awareness of law, as well as heightened and consistent enforcement of the law. Burke paralleled the need for awareness and enforcement to the state’s ‘Click It or Ticket’ campaign, which was successful in increasing compliance with seat-belt use laws in Illinois.

While officials say that more than 60 ‘enforcement stings,’ at pedestrian crossing are scheduled for this year throughout the city, the Pedestrian Accident & Injury team of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. hope to see more done to promote awareness of the law. As stated by Chicago Attorney Peter Zneimer:

“Any law at improving safety for vulnerable road users in the city is certainly a step in the right direction. At the same time, however, the effectiveness of such laws are dependent on compliance, which at a very minimum must involve three components-(1) notifying the public about the law through promoting awareness; (2) educating the public as to how to properly comply with it; and (2) enforcing the law to increase compliance. Thereafter, we must rely on the prudence and reasonableness of the motorists whom share our roadways with pedestrians and bicyclists.”

If you or a loved one were involved in a motor vehicle-versus-pedestrian accident in Chicago, or a surrounding area, Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. want to help you and your family obtain the compensation deserved. Contact us online, or by calling 773-516-4100, to schedule a Free Consultation, and let our experienced attorneys go to work for you.