Despite Law, Motorists Still Confused About Crosswalk Rules

There's a two-year-old Illinois state law that requires drivers to stop -- not just yield -- at a crosswalk when a pedestrian is there.

But in the city and the surrounding areas, authorities are noting crosswalk confusion, and various methods to remedy that problem are ending with sometimes surprising results.

During a recent five-year period in Chicago, on average, there have been 3,000 accidents between vehicles and pedestrians, and an average of 50 people killed annually, Chicago Department of Transportation records show.

In front of Highland Park's city hall, pedestrians and drivers alike routinely feel as if they're in an odd dance for survival. And along 31st street in suburban Oak Brook, a deer-crossing sign immediately precedes a bike-crossing sign, but nothing indicating to drivers that they need to stop at the crosswalk itself.

"There has to be a clearer way for motorists to know that a pedestrian is attempting to cross the street instead of just standing at the curb," said Oak Brook Police Chief Jim Kruger.  

In Chicago, some intersections are being adorned with sophisticated electronic devices. At others, simple crosswalk-specific stop signs are displayed.

The city's new transportation director, Gabe Klein, has observed motorists at one such intersection near his downtown office. He said he's been surprised by the results.

"The people that come through here every day, they just know to stop. And that's how you make cultural change," he said.

But those same signs seem to be having the opposite effect along busy Ogden Avenue in Western Springs, where officials have noted an increase in vehicle crashes where a new flashing light and sign system is being tested.

"[It's] not what we expected," said Western Springs Deputy Chief Brian Budds. "Motorists are confused by what to do."

Experts say it's not the laws that need help. It's simply public awareness along with more and better signs.

In Chicago, drivers can be fined as much as $500.00 for failing to stop for someone at a crosswalk.

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