City council seeks to maintain decline in accidents

Stephanie Yang

The Evanston City Council addressed ways to keep traffic crashes and pedestrian accidents on a downward trend at their meeting Monday.

In four years, Evanston traffic crashes have decreased 16.5% since 2008. Pedestrian accidents have also decreased 50% since 1990. Members of the council and presenters of the Safety Goal Update discussed reasons for the decrease and how to continue the trend.

“We’ve heard from many of you concern that we need to take additional steps to increase safety in the community,” City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said during the meeting.

Chief of Police Richard Eddington said the use of Illinois Department of Transportation funds helped increase the enforcement of traffic laws. In his presentation to the council, he said the IDOT has funded about $24,000 for almost 400 additional traffic enforcement hours.

“This is a substantial impact on the public’s perception of how rigorous we enforce traffic laws and is critical to compliance with those traffic laws,” Eddington said.

All locations of increased traffic accidents have shown a reduction in crashes for the fifth straight year, Eddington said. He also mentioned the National Traffic Safety Award the Evanston Police Department received in Oct. 2011, accrediting the workers greatly with its success.

“I’m pleased to announce these, I’m pleased to highlight these, but they are the recognition of the efforts of the men and women you see every day serving and protecting in the streets of Evanston,” he said.

Sgt. Pat Moran identified some key problems with traffic accidents to be cell phone usage, seat belts and speeding. Moran also said the Evanston Traffic Bureau is responsible for much of the traffic crash decrease.

“A lot of people think all we do is go out there and write tickets and ask people everything… and I say this to a lot of people who question that, or ask me about that, it’s the best of the departments,” Moran said. “I’m privileged to supervise highly intelligent, hardworking, dedicated police officers that I believe make an excellent impact on the city.”

Moran also brought up some target traffic areas including Washington Street and Church Street. He said he plans to primarily focus on these places recommended by the aldermen.

“You can expect accountability from me, and hopefully I’ll give you the results that you’re looking for,” Moran said.

Alderman Jane Grover (7th) commended Eddington on the 17.6% dropped since 2009 of injury crashes, which she said improved safety significantly on Evanston’s streets.

“I credit our traffic unit and your officers for having a lot to do with this great reduction of the injury crash rate,” Grover said.

Suzette Robinson, director of Evanston Public Works said some reasons for the reduction in pedestrian accidents are traffic signals upgrade, street maintenance and increased traffic calming and signs.

One aspect of pedestrian safety Robinson focused on was uncontrolled crossing, which have no signs or signals. These included school crossings, senior crossings, park crossing, special request crossings and others. Robinson said District 65 didn’t have the resources for the grant application that would help solve uncontrolled designated school crossings.

“The city really took a leadership role in terms of providing the engineering and helping prepare the application,” Robinson said.

Robinson said the final report will be presented to the council Aug. 6 and will complete all feasible safety recommendations before school starts in the fall.

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