For residents of Evanston, the thought of being in a serious car accident is a frightening one. In a beautiful college town, the possibility may seem remote. Yet in Evanston, the number of fatal car accidents are on the rise, even as the total number of crashes remain relatively constant.

While a traffic accident can happen anywhere, and at any time, there are certain places and times where collisions are more likely to occur. In fact, in Evanston, there is one road in particular where the bulk of accidents happen — year after year.

Understanding how car accidents happen in Evanston can help you be a smarter, safer driver. This can allow you to reduce the type of risks that you take on the road — and decrease the likelihood that you’ll be in any type of crash.

Fatal Accidents on the Rise in Evanston

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In Evanston, while the total number of accidents has remained relatively constant, there has been an increase in the number of people killed in crashes. This is consistent with trends across Illinois, where total motor vehicle crashes increased by 2.2% from 2013 to 2017, and fatal motor vehicle crashes increased by 9.3%. For the survivors, loved ones, and residents of Evanston, the question becomes how to reduce the number of fatal accidents in our city.

In 2016, five people lost their lives in two car accidents involving three vehicles in Evanston. This includes the death of one bicyclist who was hit and killed by a car in 2016. This was a substantial increase from 2015, when two people died as a result of two separate accidents involving nine vehicles.

The total number of car accidents in Evanston (of all types) has remained fairly steady over time. In 2016, there were 1,289 crashes involving 2,535 vehicles, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). In 2015, there were 1,400 collisions involving 2,751 vehicles. In 2014, there were 1,271 accidents involving 2,501 vehicles.

While Evanston certainly experiences its share of bad weather, the majority of accidents in Evanston happen on clear, dry days. Out of 1,289 accidents in 2016, 73% (941) happened on a clear day. A nearly identical percentage happened on a dry road surface: 72.9% (940).

So what is the cause of these fatal accidents? IDOT does not release data related to the specific cause of crashes, such as distracted driving or speeding. However, based on the statistics collected by IDOT, some conclusions can be drawn about how and why these accidents are occurring.

Most crashes occur on Fridays and in urban areas — such as in Evanston. Over the course of a year, 45,729 accidents happened on a Friday in an urban area in Illinois in 2016, compared to just 8,110 in rural areas. The second-greatest number of accidents happened on Wednesdays (41,500).

The majority (69.9%) of crashes happen during daylight hours, particularly during prime commuting hours. In 2016, 51,033 accidents happened between 8:00 a.m. and 11:59 a.m. (morning rush hour) and 71,197 happened between noon and 3:59 p.m. The highest number, 74,571, happened between 4:00 and 7:59 p.m. — when people are rushing to get home from work. 86.8% of these accidents happened on urban roadways.

This tells us that car accidents are most likely to happen when our streets and highways are the busiest. When drivers are impatient, they may be more likely to pass improperly, disregard traffic signals, or fail to yield right of way. Any or all of these factors can lead to collisions.

Using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has developed a list of most common causes of fatal accidents, all of which relate to driver behavior. Based on data from the entire country, the most frequent factors in fatal accidents in 2016 were:

  • Speeding/driving too fast for conditions: 17.8%
  • Under the influence of drugs or alcohol: 10.8%
  • Failure to stay in proper lane: 7.5%
  • Failure to yield right of way: 7.0%
  • Distracted driving: 6.2%
  • Operating vehicle carelessly: 5.2%
  • Failure to obey traffic signals: 4.0%
  • Operating vehicle recklessly: 3.9%
  • Overcorrecting: 3.8%
  • Obscured vision: 3.0%
  • Drowsy driving: 2.5%
  • Swerving or avoiding due to wind or slippery surface: 2.5%
  • Driving wrong way or on the wrong side of the road: 2.3%
  • Making improper turn: 0.7%
  • Other factors: 11.8%
  • None reported: 30.8%
  • Unknown: 16.3%

The single most common factor in most fatal accidents — speeding — can be even more dangerous when driving on heavily-trafficked urban roads.

In Evanston, there are certain types of accidents that are more common than others. These include:

  • Parked Motor Vehicle: 330 in 2016
  • Turning: 230 in 2016
  • Rear End: 228 in 2016
  • Angle (crashes involving a left turn): 185 in 2016
  • Sideswipe Same Direction: 126 in 2016
  • Fixed Object: 76 in 2016
  • Pedal cyclist: 50 in 2016

In 2016, the two fatal accidents involved an angle crash and a collision with a bicyclist.

Evanston’s Most Dangerous Roads and Intersections

In recent years, the city of Evanston has seen an increase in the number of car accidents. Although car accidents occur throughout Evanston, there are certain roads and intersections that seem to experience a higher concentration of accidents than other streets. Not surprisingly — given the data on crashes in Illinois as a whole — these streets tend to have more traffic and be busier than other roads in Evanston.

The worst “offender” in Evanston is Ridge Avenue, which includes six of the ten worst intersections for traffic accidents in Evanston. According to the City of Evanston data, as reported to the Illinois Department of Transportation, 407 car crashes have occurred to date on Ridge Avenue from October 1, 2016 to the present. This represents 16% of all accidents in Evanston.

Ridge Avenue has long been a source of complaints about aggressive and distracted driving. Given the high level of traffic on Ridge Avenue, the city has taken numerous steps to address the accidents that continue to occur along this road. Yet despite these improvements, accidents are still common at intersections on Ridge Avenue, including:

  • Ridge Avenue and Lake Street, with 29 accidents in 2016;
  • Ridge Avenue and Greenwood, with 26 accidents in 2016;
  • Ridge Avenue and Howard, with 24 accidents in 2016;
  • Ridge Avenue and Davis Street, with 19 accidents in 2016;
  • Ridge Avenue and Emerson, with 19 accidents in 2016;
  • Ridge Avenue and Emerson, with 19 accidents in 2016;
  • Ridge Avenue and Church, with 18 accidents in 2016;
  • Ridge Avenue and Dempster, with 13 accidents in 2016;
  • Ridge Avenue and Main, with 13 accidents in 2016;
  • Ridge Avenue and Grove, with 12 accidents in 2016; and
  • Ridge Avenue and Greenleaf, with 11 accidents in 2016.

The worst intersection for car accidents in Evanston is the intersection of Lake Street and Ridge, with 29 accidents in 2016 alone — a significant increase over the 15 crashes at this intersection in 2015. One possible reason for this sharp increase in accidents may be the restrictions imposed on drivers seeking to make left turns onto Grove from Ridge. This leads many drivers to make a left before Grove, at Lake, resulting in a greater number of accidents.

According to the Evanston Police Department, the leading cause of accidents within the city is a failure to reduce speed to avoid a crash. This is a primary factor in 24% of all accidents within Evanston. The police are unable to determine a cause in 20% of accidents, but in 19% of collisions, failing to yield right-of-way is the cause of the crash. On busy roads such as Ridge Avenue, this type of behavior can lead to accidents.

Why are these Intersections the Most Dangerous?

Ridge Avenue is one of the most dangerous areas to drive in Evanston. While there may be many reasons why the intersections along Ridge lead to so many accidents, the primary one is simple: Ridge Avenue is busy.

According to data from the City of Evanston’s Department of Public Works, between 15,000 and 20,000 vehicles travel down Ridge Avenue every day. Based on the volume of traffic on Ridge Avenue, it is far and away the riskiest road to travel in Evanston. The chance of being in a wreck is approximately 5.0 per 100,000 trips. In comparison, there is an approximately a 1.8 out of 100,000 likelihood of being in an accident on Sheridan.

Beyond the sheer number of vehicles on Ridge, there are other factors at play. The speed limit — although recently reduced — is relatively high for a largely residential area. Two lanes of traffic on each side of the road may also encourage speeding through this stretch of roadway.

Tickets issued by the Evanston Police demonstrate the scope of the problem. In 2018, 4,311 traffic citations were issued in the vicinity of Ridge Avenue. This included 1,339 for speeding, 901 for distracted driving, and 874 for disobeying a traffic control device. These numbers show that speeding continues to be a major problem along Ridge Avenue, and may be a major contributor to the number of accidents along this corridor.

How to Stay Safe on the Road

Given the contributing factors affecting these dangerous intersections, the best thing you can do to stay safe on the road is to drive defensively. Always keep your eyes open so that you can anticipate the moves of the other drivers. If you see another car failing to slow down or preparing to unsafely pass you or merge, you might have to take action to help avoid an accident on their behalf.

This could mean slowing down and maintaining a slower speed when you enter one of these busy intersections along Ridge Avenue so you can be as prepared to quickly react to any problems that you might observe on the road and to any unexpected movements from other drivers on the road. You should also be particularly cautious when making left turns on Ridge Avenue, checking behind you for cars and only turning when there is no oncoming traffic.

You should also avoid using your phone or succumbing to other distractions while you are driving. Taking your eyes off the road at a busy, dangerous intersection for just a second can severely impact your ability to respond safely to the maneuvers of another car, and can result in a serious car accident. Of course, phones are not the only distractions; talking with passengers, eating while driving, or looking down at the controls to adjust the heater, A/C, or even the radio can also lead to a crash.

The Rooth Law Firm Can Help You

Robert J. Rooth, founder of The Rooth Law Firm, has more than 30 years of experience representing injured victims’ rights against insurance companies and at-fault drivers. We understand how difficult it can be to get your life back on track after an accident. We are here to help.

Contact us at (847) 869-9100 to make arrangements to discuss your case with our attorney today.