Chicago Speed Cameras, Traffic Safety By The Numbers

The Expired Meters Highlight Curious Numbers On Traffic Safety

Monday, the Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety released data from the Chicago Department of Transportation to aldermen who had requested the information during last Wednesday’s hearings on the pending speed camera ordinance.

The reports were released late Monday afternoon, giving city council members just over a single day to pour over the information before a potential vote on the speed camera ordinance when the full Chicago City Council meets Wednesday morning.

This information was “shared” with The Expired Meter, so as a public service, this site will post the entire report and share some of the more interesting numbers to gain some insight into what is shaping up to be a divisive policy.

Hide & Seek With Numbers

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics,” 19th-century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli famously said.

An apt expression to be sure when it comes to Chicago pedestrian crash data.

Many alderman at last Wednesday’s hearings asked CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein to provide more data on pedestrian fatalities and in some cases, broken down by ward, in order to allow them to make a more informed decision.

But CDOT did a truly superb job of cooking the books with their numbers.

Like a magician who uses distraction to fool his audience, nowhere in these numbers did CDOT just simply list fatalities as requested by several city council members.

Instead, the agency lumped pedestrian fatalities with what they termed “serious injury”, (versus non serious injuries).

Of course, categorizing the data this way and essentially hiding the number of pedestrian fatalities, skews the numbers to make the alleged juvenile pedestrian safety crisis look much more horrible than what it may really be.

It is impossible to know how many children were actually killed as opposed to seriously injured–however that’s defined–by reviewing these reports.

How Many Safety Zones Are In Your Ward?

When CDOT breaks down park and school safety zone by ward, on average each ward has 12 park zones and 19.5 school zones for an average total 31.5 safety zones per ward.

Which Ward Has The Most/Least Safety Zones?

Most Safety Zones By Ward

1                2nd Ward      59
2(Tie)      4th Ward       55
2(Tie)      19th Ward     55
4                21st Ward     52
5                27th Ward    49

Least Safety Zones By Ward

50th (3-way tie) 12th, 31st & 36th ward

What Kills More Children? Cars or Gun Violence?

A great question posed by Ald. Leslie Hairston during hearings.

One might think, by all the arm twisting Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration has been doing and the speed of which this law has zoomed through Springfield and now into the City Council, that children were getting mowed down by cars on an hourly basis.

The truth is, according to the Department of Public Health Trauma Registry, only 27 children were killed in traffic accidents between 2008 and 2010.

While 129 children under 16 were killed in homicides over the same time period.

Which Ward Is The Car Crash Capitol of Chicago?

Most Car Crashes By Ward (2005-2010)

It’s not much of a surprise that the 42nd and the 2nd ward were at the top of this list. With both wards having large expanses of their ward within the downtown Chicago area, the most congested part of the city, it makes a lot of sense.

1 42nd Ward 9,058
2 2nd Ward 8,063
3 6th Ward 5,433

Fewest Car Crashes By Ward (2005-2010)

50 49th Ward 1,824
49 46th Ward 2,007
48 22nd Ward 2,220

Where Are Students Getting Killed/Injured By Vehicles?

Between 2005 and 2010 a total of 3257 students were struck, injured or injured in traffic crashes, an average of 72 children per ward according to CDOT statistics.

But in a handful of wards, those numbers are shockingly high, with a handful coming in at over double the citywide average.

Here’s the top three wards when it comes to students being struck by vehicles.

1      28th Ward      176
2      17th Ward      174
3      24th Ward      160

How Many Students Are Getting Hit During Weekdays?

Many aldermen were interested to know how many students were being hit by cars during school days, in order to give them more insight into issue.

Unfortunately, CDOT provided two reports with contradictory reports and in at least one of the reports, some very obvious arithmetic errors.

One report that is specific to weekdays, claims 2729 students were involved in traffic crashes between 2005-2010. However, a few columns over, the total looks like it should be 3,613.

From this report though, approximately 59% of students involved in a traffic incident was 59% between the times of 7 AM to 7 PM the hours the speed cameras are planned to be operational. 41% of those incidents happened to students between 7 PM and 7 AM when cameras would theoretically be off.

However, another, similar report (ostensibly for weekdays and weekends) further in the information packet pegs the number of students involved in traffic accidents between 7 AM and 7 PM as 75%, and just over 24% occurring between 7 PM and 7 AM.

While it is hard to trust these numbers at this point, if the numbers are to be believed 75% of pedestrian students are being struck during weekdays versus weekend days. This means children are marginally safer during weekdays versus weekends as weekdays account for 71% of the total week.

Which Wards Have The Most/Least Red Light Cameras?

Chicago has the largest red light camera program in the U.S. with 384 cameras at 191 intersections–that should breakdown to an average of four per ward.

But a few wards have disproportionately more with the 30th Ward having a whopping 12, followed by the 31st Ward with 10, with the 1st, 8th, 27th, 32nd, 39th and 45th in a five way tie for third place.

What Have We Learned?

It’s difficult to say.

Because it’s hard to trust all the information due to the many obvious mathematical mistakes in these reports and, what looks like a premeditated decision to obscure useful information–specifically by not producing any pedestrian fatality numbers anywhere in these reports.

There’s also no breakdown by year to see if there are any trends of increasing or declining pedestrian traffic incidents.

Sure, we can see that children are being hit by cars but the data is so raw and prepared in such a opaque way what actually can be discerned. One could make the case that more questions are being raised than answered by the data.

Armed with this information (or lack there of),  alderman now have to make the decision whether to beginning at 10 AM.

Multiple calls and emails to CDOT seeking comment were not returned.

Here’s the full report, “Safety Zone Ordinance Deliverables.”

9 Responses to Chicago Speed Cameras, Traffic Safety By The Numbers

  1. Austin Milbarge says:

    Awesome work Geek!

    keep up the good fight, redflex, the Mayor and the ATA need to find other ways to line their pockets!

  2. Saucexx says:

    The city doesn’t need data, Rahm and Gabe Klein just “know” we have a speeding problem. If we all just drove 5 mph we’d have it solved.

  3. Louie Dublinsky says:

    This is so f**ked! Most of the city council voted away the parking meter revenue in record time, under a week, and now they’re looking for new revenue to make up for their mistake! F**k them! Burke has a driver paid for by the taxpayer and he says, “if you can’t pay the fine, don’t do the crime!” GFY Burke! And the ATA video on Humboldt Blvd. is a crock too. What did Rahm promise them? Time to start having bicycles pay for the roads they use just like drivers.

  4. Robert Kastigar says:

    What kind of reports or information are necessary to make an informed decision?

    Speed kills. Reducing speed is beneficial.

  5. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    Hi Robert,

    First, thank you for your thoughts.

    But with all due respect, the issue is a bit more complex than simply saying “speed kills.”

    Part of the point of the post was, at least in my opinion, to show that the city seems to be deliberately obfuscating data and in some cases is being very sloppy with just basic math. If the city is truly concerned about human lives why would they be afraid to let city council members and the public have all the info? Does it worry you that the powers that be are more concerned about scoring a political victory and starting up this revenue stream instead of logically and methodically looking at every possible way to improve safety? Aren’t you concerned CDOT is cooking the books to make their case instead of working to sincerely improve safety?

  6. Pete says:

    We all know which way the vote will go tomorrow, doctored numbers or not.

  7. Robert, speed in and of itself doesn’t kill, it’s the miss-application of speed which contributes to traffic crashes. The Speed (Greed) Cameras will be set up just like the red light cameras, rigged to rip off motorists. Certainly not all drivers are angels, but the vast majority do intend to violate the law. Most RL.C tickets are technical violations timed by computers for a hundredth of a second into the red. Robert, do you drive on the expressways? And if so do you always drive the speed limit? The reason for so many “law breakers” is the speed limits are engineered to the 85th percentile free flowing speed of traffic. 85 percent of the drivers drive at the safest speed regardless of what speed is posted. Having read the proposed ASE ordinance and attended last week’s city council meeting and learned just how Ill-fated this program is. The sad result will be increased traffic jams and more crashes, but it’s all for the kids!

  8. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    Pete, you are right.

    From the people I’m talking to, it’s pretty much a done deal. Expect no less than 5 no votes.

  9. Captain Obvious says:

    Reducing speeds reduces injuries.
    The greatest number of decreased injuries are at the speed of Zero.
    Dont allow cars to move and you will not ‘mow down’ children.
    Simple solution

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