Can Chicago’s Vision Zero Plan Reduce Car Accident Injuries And Deaths?

In June, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel released the details of an ambitious proposal to eliminate traffic fatalities in Chicago by the year 2026. With the “Vision Zero” plan, the city also hopes to reduce traffic fatalities at least twenty percent by 2020. Mayor Emanuel told the Chicago Tribune, “Chicago has made progress in making our streets safer, but we still experience far too many traffic crashes. The status quo is unacceptable. We will streamline our efforts to protect the lives, health and well-being of all Chicagoans.”

According to a June 12 press release from the mayor’s office, “While Chicago and the nation have seen a downward trend in traffic crashes over the last decade, this downward trend has leveled off in recent years. More than 2,000 people are killed or seriously injured in traffic crashes in Chicago each year, with an average of five people seriously injured each day and one person killed every three days.”


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tells us that human error plays a role in 94 percent of all traffic accidents in the U.S. While zero traffic fatalities might sound unrealistic, it’s the Vision Zero approach. Originally developed in Sweden, Vision Zero is based on the “vision” of zero traffic fatalities, so that even if that end isn’t fully achieved, traffic fatality and injury rates are at least substantially reduced.

Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City have already adopted their own Vision Zero plans. What are the details of the plan for Chicago, and how will it impact drivers and pedestrians here?

Chicago’s Vision Zero plan has four aims:

• improving safety on Chicago’s streets for everyone
• altering perceptions and behaviors to create a “culture of safety” in Chicago
• using education and technology to create a future where safer drivers drive safer vehicles
• making investments in communities where severe traffic crashes most frequently happen

The city’s Department of Transportation intends to make approximately three hundred Chicago intersections friendlier to pedestrians with the addition of “bump-outs” to curbs and “refuge islands” in the middle of hazardous traffic corridors.

The intention of these additions is to reduce the distance and time that pedestrians are crossing intersections and are potentially exposed to traffic. City leaders also want to enhance safety at transit stations and increase the use of public transportation, particularly in high-crash neighborhoods.


For starters, the city will begin safety improvements this summer in the Austin and Garfield Park communities on the West Side. Those improvements will be funded by a grant from the National Safety Council. The city has also identified a number of “high-crash” neighborhoods that will become safety priorities, including downtown, Belmont-Cragin, and Englewood.

The city’s own statistics show that those who reside in economically depressed neighborhoods are three times more apt to die in a traffic collision in Chicago than those who don’t. African-Americans constitute almost fifty percent of the traffic fatalities in Chicago.

The success of a Vision Zero plan is not measured by an increased number of traffic tickets or convictions. Instead, the main role of the police in a Vision Zero plan is community education and sponsorship of what Vision Zero calls “engagement events” in high-crash neighborhoods. Katie Bowes, a Vision Zero “program manager,” told the Chicago Tribune, “By working with the community, and serving them and talking to them, we’re going to find out from them what areas they feel are unsafe, where their barriers are.” Bowes said. She does not expect the number of traffic tickets issued by Chicago police officers to increase under the Vision Zero plan.

What else does Chicago’s Vision Zero plan require? City employees and city contractors, CTA drivers, Chicago taxi drivers, and rideshare drivers with companies like Uber will all be legally obligated to participate in additional driver safety training.

New safety equipment – sideguards and convex mirrors – will be installed on large trucks owned by the city, and the city will also consider a proposal to require the same safety equipment for trucks owned by city contractors.

Ron Burke is the executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance. He told the Chicago Tribune that the Vision Zero plan for Chicago establishes a “strong foundation for making real progress.” Burke says that behaviors like speeding and reckless driving “have to change in order to achieve the Vision Zero goal, and that can only happen through redesigning streets to be safer and through stepped-up enforcement of traffic laws.”


Chicago’s Vision Zero plan will certainly prevent some deaths and injuries, but the truth is that anyone can be injured in traffic in Chicago – even if you’re on foot. In 2016, for example, 44 pedestrians died in Chicago traffic accidents. If you are injured as a driver, passenger, or pedestrian in a traffic crash in or near Chicago, you must have the advice of a good personal injury lawyer.

Contact Chicago personal injury attorney Joseph M. Dooley. With over 25 years of experience fighting on behalf of injury victims in the Chicago area, attorney Joseph M. Dooley can offer you the sound and candid legal advice that a victim of negligence will need.

If you are injured in traffic because another driver was negligent, you probably have grounds to file a personal injury claim. Under Illinois law, anyone who is injured by negligence is entitled to complete compensation for all past, present, and future medical treatment, therapy, and rehabilitation; for all lost wages, including the loss of future earning capacity; for all past and future pain and suffering arising from the injury; for disability or disfigurement; and for the loss of the “enjoyment of life.”

If you are involved in a traffic collision in Chicago, seek medical attention at once, even if you don’t think you’ve been injured. Do not accept any settlement offer, don’t make any statement to an insurance company, and do not sign any insurance documents before you have a legal consultation with Chicago personal injury attorney Joseph M. Dooley. Email his law office at [email protected], complete the contact form here on the website, or call 312-236-7282 to schedule a free legal consultation.