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.”