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Chicago winter time shift increases pedestrian accident risks

Sleep patterns aren't the only adjustment people make when the clock time changes. Falling back adds an hour of rest but steals daylight. As the nation moves toward the early nights of winter, traffic authorities warn dusk and darkness contribute to Illinois auto-pedestrian accidents.

For the next several months, sunset will occur before many drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians head home from work. Distracted holiday shoppers will complicate already-busy traffic through metropolitan Chicago. Inattentive drivers and hurrying pedestrians on dark streets is a dangerous environment.

The Illinois Department of Transportation reported 2,943 pedestrian accidents in Chicago in 2010 and 844 in suburban Cook County. There were 50 pedestrian fatalities that year in the combined area, with hundreds of "incapacitating injuries."

Between 1 percent (Chicago) and 2.4 percent (suburbs) of all pedestrian accidents in the metro area were fatal in 2010. Disabling injuries occurred in about 14 percent of city collisions and almost 24 percent of the pedestrian accidents in outlying Cook County.

Transportation officials say crashes frequently occur at intersections, when vehicles are turning as pedestrians are crossing the street. Many accidents take place when pedestrians jaywalk or, increasingly with mobile technology advances, step into traffic while distracted by cellphones.

Although the number of bicyclists declines as the weather becomes cold and sloppy, plenty of riders still depend on two-wheel transportation through winter. Some bicyclists have been blamed for ignoring traffic rules, but the person who suffers an injury or dies in an auto-bike accident is usually the one with the least protection.

Most Chicago drivers are familiar with driving and walking in tough conditions. Transportation officials advise drivers and pedestrians to respect one another's space while traveling the winter streets to avoid injuries, deaths and legal consequences.

A negligent driver who harms a pedestrian may face criminal charges, as well as civil action for personal injuries or wrongful death.

Source:, "When the clocks go back, pedestrian-car accidents go up" Mike Murillo, Nov. 04, 2013

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