Deadly Downers Grove Hit-and-Run Crash Involved an Elderly Driver in an SUV

Last week there was a deadly hit-and-run collision in Downers Grove. The fatal collision was caught on surveillance camera, and police were able to do a sweep of a two-mile radius of the crash to find the driver. Per multiple local news outlets, that driver is cooperating with the police.

Police told CBS News that the victim, a 65-year-old pedestrian who was well-known in the neighborhood, had tripped and fallen into the road right before the collision. The driver, a 74-year-old woman, was in an Acura RDX – a sport crossover SUV.

As regular readers of our blog know, we feel strongly about not labeling hit-and-run as “accidents,” but in this case, that may truly be what happened. Look at the section of the 600 block of Ogden Ave that’s being highlighted on local news:

Deadly Downers Grove Hit-and-Run Crash Involved an Elderly Driver in an SUV

There’s a streetlight up ahead on the right, but none in this immediate area. All the shops are recessed along the roadway. There are four lanes of traffic (plus one turning lane in the middle) but no medians or pedestrian islands. If you look at the road on a map, you’ll see numerous intersections without crosswalks or pedestrian lights, too. And the crash occurred at around 9:00pm, which means that it was dark at the time.

To recap: The incident occurred at nighttime in an area that has sidewalks but no other discernible pedestrian safety accoutrements, and the victim had literally tripped and fallen into a dark roadway before an elderly driver – in an SUV – hit her.

For all intents and purposes, this looks like a terrible, tragic accident.

Did the driver’s age play a role in the hit-and-run?

It may have, though this is pure speculation on our part. A 2023 study out of Iran appears to say yes, but we’re not sure we’re comfortable making assumptions based on their data, as the roads are very different in our countries. We do know that the number of fatal accidents involving elderly drivers increased by 5% between 2021 and 2022 here in America, per the National Safety Council (NSC). We also know that elderly drivers have to contend with certain issues that non-elderly drivers may not, such as:

  • Functional decline. As we age, our reflexes and eyesight worsen, and this can affect how older drivers react to sudden changes in the road or the vehicle. Conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, or just the general decline of our eyes may make darker shapes harder to see, let along identify, when driving.
  • Cognitive decline. Not all seniors experience the same levels of cognitive decline, of course, but it can play a role in how they assess potential dangers. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, citing a 2105 national study, says “the most frequent error made by crash-involved drivers ages 70 and older was inadequate surveillance, which included looking but not seeing and failing to look.”
  • Medications. The medications we take can affect our driving, no matter what age we are. But elderly folks are more likely to take prescription medications and may therefore be more likely to experience unintended effects if any of those drugs are contraindicated.

Generally speaking, elderly drivers do tend to be safer drivers, and they may be overrepresented in nighttime crashes based on the type of driving they do.

The truth is, while the driver’s age may have played a role in the collision, we believe the reason is more likely to be the car she was driving, not how she was driving it.

SUVs are death traps for pedestrians, even in the best conditions

America’s love affair with giant vehicles is making everyone less safe. The Acura RDX specifically is over 5’ feet and more than 6’ wide, and about 15’ long. It’s large enough that it comes equipped standard with blind spot detection, but that safety system is designed to help you when you turn; it’s not designed to help you identify potential hazards in the roadway. We point this out because SUVs have large blind spots all over their vehicle, including in the front. There is a very good chance that the driver literally could not see the victim in the street.

More than half of Chicago’s pedestrian deaths involve SUVs and other large vehicles; that’s a number that should make people sit and take notice.

Does the hit-and-run victim’s family have legal options?

The victim of a hit-and-run (or the surviving family members, through their personal representative, if the crash is fatal) does have legal options.

  • If the driver is found, the victim or the personal representative could file a claim or a lawsuit against the driver, seeking compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and intangibles like pain and suffering. In the event of a fatal crash, the family would file a wrongful death claim which could see compensation for all this plus funeral and burial costs.
  • If the driver isn’t found, then the victim would make a claim against his or her own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. In a fatal accident, the personal representative would make the claim. You can still seek the same types of damages, but you’d be limited to however much coverage you purchased.

We feel awful for the family and neighbors of the victim, but we are glad that the driver was found and is cooperating with police. We hope that it helps the family find a little peace.

Gainsberg Injury and Accident Lawyers represents injury victims throughout the greater Chicagoland area. For help after any car crash, including a hit-and-run, please call our Chicago car accident lawyers or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation. Our office is conveniently located in The Loop.