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Push for Lower Speed Limits in Chicago Gains Momentum

Car speeding down a road in downtown Chicago.

Finally, Chicago is taking action on something livable streets advocates have proposed for years—making the 25 mph speed limit the rule rather than the exception for Chicago streets. Similar policies in similar major cities have reduced serious and fatal crashes, according to the Active Transportation Alliance.

The proposal seeks to address the negligent drivers behind Chicago's high traffic accident and fatal pedestrian crash rates. Every year, thousands of people are injured and killed in Illinois car, truck, and motorcycle accidents. Too many of these incidents involve pedestrians and bicyclists.

Lowering Speed Limits By 5-10 mph Can Save Lives

Studies show that a mere 5-10 mph reduction in the speed limit can save lives. Consider the damage to pedestrians in accidents at different speeds:

  • At 20 mph, a pedestrian has a 95% chance of survival.
  • At 30 mph, a pedestrian has a 55% chance of survival.
  • At 40 mph, a pedestrian has a 15% chance of survival.

To put it another way, "Crashes involving pedestrians are 70 percent more likely to be fatal if the vehicle involved is traveling at 30 mph versus 25 mph," Chicago Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Committee director Morgan Madderom told Streetsblog, a Chicagoland transportation news and advocacy website of which Keating Law Offices is a sponsor.

Will Chicago Make 25 mph The New Standard?

While a blanket 25 mph speed limit in residential areas is still in the proposal stage, advocates have reason for hope. This spring, the Chicago City Council and Illinois Legislature are holding hearings on proposals to reduce the default urban area speed limit.

The city lowering speed limits to reduce traffic accidents has been a tool in the planning department's toolbox that has been getting more use lately. In April, for example, the speed limit was lowered from 30 to 25 mph on Broadway between Lawrence and Devon avenues in Uptown and Edgewater as part of a Complete Streets project. It is still too early to understand the impact.

Other cities have more widely implemented slower speed limits with success. In New York City, for example, where the residential speed limit was reduced from 30-25 mph to 20-25 mph, the city saw a 23 percent decrease in deadly pedestrian crashes.

Chicago Traffic Accidents And People Of Color

Fatal pedestrian accidents affect some populations more than others, including children, older adults, people with disabilities, and people of color. While Black people make up less than one-third of Chicago's population, they account for two-thirds of those killed in traffic accidents.

Therefore, while a default slower speed limit could save lives, there is concern that enforcement of a 25 mph speed limit would put a disproportionate burden on drivers of color. Safety and justice advocates say to avoid this, roadway design and infrastructure makeovers should be engineered to guide drivers to travel at safer speeds physically. Such modifications may include traffic calming measures, redesigned roadways, and enhanced signage.

"By prioritizing infrastructure enhancements alongside changes in speed limits, we can create safer and more accessible transportation networks that benefit everyone," said José Manuel Almanza, director of advocacy and movement building at Equicity.

Injured By A Negligent Driver In Chicago? Contact Keating Law Offices

Unsafe driving is a menace on Chicago streets, but it's not an unsolvable problem. At Keating Law Offices, P.C., we believe every preventable traffic accident is one too many. We refuse to accept any traffic-related death as inevitable or just an "accident," especially when the solutions are within reach. It's time to take action to prevent these tragedies. If you've been injured or a loved one was killed in a Chicago-area crash, don't wait. Contact us online or call us at 833-CALL-KLO for a free case evaluation. Our attorneys have recovered millions of dollars for clients through negotiated settlements and jury verdicts. Let us fight for the justice and financial compensation you deserve.

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