Public transportation is a dangerous, and sometimes deadly way to travel in Chicago, and mass accidents have left hundreds of victims in their wake. According to research conducted by an ABC7 investigative team, Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) buses are involved in a crash approximately every 36 hours. Transit passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and the drivers and passengers of private motor vehicles suffer serious injury due to these accidents, and some victims have lost their lives.
Unfortunately, CTA officials have repeatedly attempted to minimize the incident rates as well as their responsibility in these accidents. As a result, countless Illinoisians are left to suffer, struggling to obtain the compensation they deserve.
CTA Accidents and the Risk for Serious Injury
Due to the sheer size of Chicago’s public transit vehicles, accidents involving CTA buses often result in severe injuries that sometimes cause temporary, or even permanent disability. While pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists are at the highest risk for becoming severely injured or killed in accidents with CTA buses, individuals riding in other motor vehicles, transit passengers, and even bus drivers can also be seriously hurt. According to city data, nearly 500 individuals were injured in 2014 alone.
In many cases, victims of CTA crashes are left to depend on the help they receive from their loved ones and health care providers for weeks, months, and even years. During this time, these individuals are often unable to work or otherwise contribute to the financial well-being of their families. Some spend the rest of their lives never recovering from the trauma endured while medical expenses escalate, bills go unpaid, and they lose their homes, their vehicles, and other possessions. In the worst of scenarios, victims lose their lives.
Who Is At Fault in CTA Crashes?
According to CTA representative Brian Steele, most of the crashes that involve public transportation vehicles are caused by the drivers of other vehicles. A report from CTA describing collisions that occurred between January 2013 and April 2015 reveals that there may be some truth to Steeles claim. In a large number of reported incidents, drivers of other motor vehicles ran red lights, sped through stop signs, rear-ended CTA buses, side-swiped them, or turned in front of them. Many of the private vehicles involved were even reported to have left the scene of these crashes. Bus drivers, however, are not always completely innocent.
There have been numerous reports of bus drivers losing consciousness while behind the wheel, crossing into the opposite line of traffic, running red lights or stop signs, and even crashing into parked vehicles and fixed objects. The inexperience of some bus drivers has sparked concern as well. In 2015, an out of control public transportation bus reportedly ran a red light before plowing into two pedestrians and three other vehicles, then jumping the curb to strike a wall. The accident caused multiple injuries and one fatality. The driver had only worked for CTA for nine months.
What is Being Done to Reduce CTA Crashes?
Since the crash, CTA is overhauling the way that the transit agency trains and assigns new bus drivers. According to CTA President Dorval Carter Jr., the overhaul will require newly hired drivers to complete a longer, more rigorous training program that will include drilling them on real life scenarios to improve their defensive driving skills. In addition, all drivers will continue to be required to attend a refresher course every two years to re-emphasize safety.
Carter states that the driver route assignment procedures are of major concern as well, however. Under employee seniority rules, newly hired, part-time drivers are often required to drive the most difficult routes while more experienced drivers are handed the easier ones. While Joseph Shofer, a civil engineering expert at Northwestern University states that less experienced drivers do not necessarily have a higher crash rate than those who are more experienced, it is Carter’s goal to ensure that more seasoned drivers who have the best records are assigned the more challenging routes.
What Can Individuals Do to Reduce the Risk of CTA crashes?
Reducing the risk for accidents involving public transportation vehicles should be a community effort. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists and motor vehicle drivers can help prevent CTA crashes from occurring as well.
- When a CTA vehicle is observed making reckless maneuvers, parking illegally, or demonstrating other actions that could result in a crash, individuals should be sure to report those incidents to the transit agency.
- Drivers and cyclists should be aware of the time it takes for large buses to slow down, stop, or otherwise react in traffic. Avoid making sudden turns, pulling out in front of buses, or stopping too quickly.
- Public transit vehicles make frequent stops to load and offload passengers. Drivers of other vehicles should avoid driving while distracted and be sure to allow plenty of distance when following buses.