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Dark And Faded Traffic Signals Present A Risk For Drivers And Pedestrians

CHICAGO (CBS) -- In a season of running in and out of the cold, Chicagoans are susceptible to dangerous temperatures and treacherous road conditions. CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory uncovered a problem plaguing several city streets.

In January alone, 207 pedestrians in Chicago got caught up in accidents. The causes of each crash vary, but urban planning expert Kate Lowe worries injuries will grow, after learning of problems with traffic signals across the city.

"It puts not just drivers at risk, and property damage, but lives and wellness at risk for pedestrians," said Lowe, an assistant professor of urban planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

At many intersections of one-way streets across Chicago, light boxes show drivers that right or left turns are prohibited. However, some of those signals are not working properly.

At the intersection of Clark and Chicago, all four light boxes are completely out.

Similar light boxes were dark or very dim across the Near North Side. CBS 2 counted 22 problematic signals within a 12-minute walk.

"This is an example of a state of good repair item that needs attention; and that's why we need more funding for transportation, and not just exciting projects," Lowe said.

Are the signs malfunctioning because of a bulb issue, or a problem with the box covers? The Chicago Department of Transportation did not answer those questions.

Instead, a CDOT spokesperson simply said the electrical office schedules repairs on an ongoing basis.

"I don't have a lot of concern, because I've been running across streets since 1967," pedestrian Matt Cammuso said.

That is not the approach suggested by organizers of Vision Zero Chicago, an 88-page plan launched in 2017 to eliminate traffic-related crashes. Improving signage is part of the ongoing project, but not a main focus.

"Despite Chicago, like many other cities, releasing a Vision Zero plan, there's actually been an uptick in pedestrian deaths, and various analysts are trying to figure out why," Lowe said.

The people behind Vision Zero Chicago released a progress report about eight months ago, detailing safety upgrades made across the city. There was no mention of turn box repairs.

CDOT declined to say how many turn boxes its crews have fixed recently.

Lowe said pedestrian accidents could be on the rise due to an increase in people on the roads in an Uber or Lyft. Distracted driving also compromises safety.

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