Deadly Hit-and-Run on Lake Street Proves Suburbs Are Dangerous, Too

On Saturday night at around 7:00pm, a man named Benjamin A. Jorgenson was fatally struck by two vehicles while he tried to cross Lake Street in Bartlett. Both drivers left the scene.

An investigation is ongoing, but ABC 7 reports that some debris from the deadly collision may indicate what types of vehicles they were:

Investigators believe one of the vehicles is red, and the other vehicle could be a dark-colored, four-door 2015-2022 Chevrolet Trax or a GMC Terrain vehicle. Investigators also found vehicle parts, including front tire wheel trim, broken headlamp pieces and a rubber portion of a windshield wiper that are believed to be from a Chevrolet Trax.

We often write about hit-and-run accidents in Chicago, as regular readers may know. Because they so often happen in the city, we tend to focus on how and what can be done to improve safety measures for pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers. But the suburbs of Chicago can also be deadly – perhaps even moreso.

Take a look at this Google Maps screenshot of Lake Street from the intersection at Valley Lane, which is where the deadly crash occurred:

Here it is from above:

On the night that two hit-and-run drivers fatally struck Mr. Jorgenson, it was snowing; visibility was not as good as it is in these photo captures.

But that’s not why we’re adding the pictures. There are some things we want you to see:

  1. Lake Street is also called US 20, or the General Ulysses S. Grant Highway.
  2. It’s a four-lane divided highway on which trucks can, and do, travel.
  3. There are traffic signals at Park and Oak, but none in between because there are no major road turnoffs.
  4. There are houses and businesses along Lake Street, but virtually no sidewalks – only some grassy buffers between the highway and the parking lots which pop up along the way. (There is one in front of the shopping plaza by Valley Lane.)
  5. Crawling along Maps shows only a handful of streetlights, including one by Valley Lane that shows up in *some* versions of Maps, but not others.
  6. There appear to be white lines indicating a crosswalk by Valley Lane (again, in *some* versions of Maps) but there are no crosswalks to the other side of Lake Street, including near places of business or residential areas.

Why does this matter? Because there is NOTHING in place from preventing Saturday night’s tragedy from occurring again – and this is a pretty busy area. In an interview with ABC 7, the victim’s neighbor said others had been hit at that very intersection (especially at night), and another local resident said this wasn’t the first hit-and-run accident.

Why the suburbs may be less safe than the city

The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that “42,915 people died on America’s roads in 2021.” This is a 10.5% increase from 2020, and the highest number of fatalities on record since 2007. Pedestrian deaths increased by 13%, “totaling 7,342 lives lost, the highest recorded in decades.”

Part of this may be because more people are walking than ever before. So of course there will be an increased risk of pedestrian accidents if there are more pedestrians.

What remained the same, though, was the literal infrastructure of our roadways once you got out of the cities. While Chicago and other metro areas have been trying to implement safe strategies for pedestrians and cyclists, like building protected bike lanes, you don’t see those kinds of efforts in suburban and rural areas – even though these are the areas that need them the most.

Think about a city bus. It makes multiple stops along its route, right? But all those stops are in the actual city. Bus routes in suburban areas are different. For example, you could grab the 554 at Park, but it’ll only take you down Lake Street; there are no stops for side streets. (Or you can pick up the Metra at the Bartlett station, but you can only get off in Elgin or Hanover Park.) So unless you drive, you’re pretty much stuff with traveling on main roads only, and walking to your final destination.

Our point is this: the suburbs were never designed for pedestrians – not really. They were designed for drivers. So if you’re a pedestrian or a cyclist outside of the city, and you’re not in a strictly residential development, there really are no safe places for you to be. The roads are wide and often dark, and you cannot rely on sidewalks to be there when you need them, let alone crosswalks.

But you don’t have to take our word for it, either. U.S. DOT provides some “hot spot” maps for areas throughout the country. The short version? Illinois overall has seen a lot of roadway deaths, and they’re not all in Chicago. A lot of them are in the suburbs and rural areas, too.

Of course, there’s one other issue when it comes to non-metro areas: access to critical care. Illinois residents are lucky(ish): there are hospitals and emergency care centers throughout the state, so the chances are good that emergency care is accessible when we need it. But when you have suffered an injury where every second counts, “throughout the state” isn’t enough.

All of this is to say that A. we’re not surprised by another deadly hit-and-run off Lake Street, though we are heartbroken about it, and B. things aren’t going to get better unless the infrastructure of the suburbs changes. The roads are just too dangerous.

Gainsberg Injury and Accident Lawyers, PC helps pedestrians who have been injured in Cook County, DuPage County, and Kane County. Whether it was a hit-and-run or not, we are your advocated. Call our injury lawyers in Chicago or complete our contact form today. Our consultations are always free.