Vehicle Speed & Size

Vehicle Speed & Size

In 2023, 70% of Chicago traffic fatalities involved drivers traveling at high speeds. Severity of human injury can be amplified by the size of the vehicle involved in a crash, as well as speed. In 2023, more than half of pedestrians killed in Chicago were hit by an SUV or larger vehicle.

High Speeds

The faster a vehicle is traveling, the more damage is done to a struck pedestrian. When a person is struck by a vehicle traveling 20 mph, there is a 5% chance they will die. When a person is struck by a vehicle traveling 30 mph, there is a 40% chance they will die. When a person is struck by a vehicle traveling 50 mph, there is nearly 100% they will die.

When a person is struck by a vehicle traveling at 30 MPH, there is a 40% chance that they will die. But when struck at 20 MPH, that risk is reduced to just 5%.

Speed reduction is a primary goal of Complete Streets design. This means not only the reduction of speed limits to 20 MPHbut also includes designs that make safer speeds more intuitive for drivers.

70% of traffic fatalities involved a driver driving at high speeds. People are driving at dangerous speeds in every neighborhood.

Speeding is an everyday issue that has dire consequences for residents throughout Chicago. Data analysis shows people driving at speeds above 50 MPH at all times of day and night throughout Chicago’s neighborhoods, particularly on wider arterial streets.

Large Vehicles

Diagram displaying an adult and child standing between the outline of a pickup truck and the outline of a sedan. If struck by a pickup truck the strike zone for pedestrians is vital organs and they will likely be pulled under the wheels. A pickup truck weighs approximately 6,000 lbs. If struck by a sedan, a pedestrian is likely to be thrown onto the hood of the car and the strike zone is likely legs. A sedan weighs approximately 3,000 lbs.

All vehicles on the road can be deadly, but crashes may be less severe when vehicles have a more tapered front end that knocks victims onto the hood of the car, instead of under the wheels. Many popular trucks and SUVs have a higher, squared-off frontend that is likely to strike a person’s vital organs, and pull victims underneath the vehicle in the event of a crash.

In larger vehicles drivers may be oblivious to having hit a person -resulting in greater injury. Children are at particular risk, as they are more difficult to see from the driver’s seat.

Wide Streets  

Wide streets with multiple lanes see more fatal crashes in Chicago. Urban arterials make up 13% of streets but are the location of 60% of fatalities. Streets over 50 feet wide make up 6.5% of streets but are the location of 61% of fatalities. Streets over 70 feet wide make up 1.3% of streets but are the location of 27% of fatalities.

Wider streets are greatly overrepresented in traffic violence, more than half of fatal crashes in Chicago happened on streets over 50 feet wide, which are only 6.5% of our road network.

A street wider than 50 feet has 18 times more fatal crashes per mile than a street narrower than 50 feet. A graphic of a three lane street.

Wider streets encourage faster speedsregardless of the posted speed limit. They also result in longer, crossing distances for people on foot. For this reason, the Complete Streets projects mean more than just lowering speed limits, but often narrowing travel lanes and squaring-off corners to encourage safer speeds and turns.

Data Source: Chicago crash statistics featured on this page are based on Chicago Police Department provisional data for 2023.

More Traffic Safety Issues

Reckless Driving

Nearly 90% of traffic deaths in Chicago involve reckless behavior by people behind the wheel.

Persistent Inequities

Chicagoans who face the greatest barriers to health, income, and personal safety are also the most likely to die in traffic crashes.