Millions of Illinois residents use public transportation on a daily basis. In the Chicago metro area, Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) buses and L trains and the suburban Pace bus and van system are an integral part of life. The South Shore Line is also frequently used by commuting workers and tourists in Indiana and Illinois.
Across the state, the Illinois Public Transport Association has nearly 60 members that include transit operations in 16 major downstate metropolitan areas and 32 rural / county public transportation operations, including transportation for senior centers. School buses ferry young riders across communities throughout Illinois every day.
Because of the speed and weight of buses and trains, and their slower response to the need to stop, collisions involving public transportation can cause considerably more damage and personal harm than wrecks involving only passenger vehicles. Also, because mass transportation vehicles carry numerous people by design, public transportation accidents typically result in numerous personal injuries or deaths.
State or local governments that provide public transportation have a legal obligation to ensure that trains and buses are safe. When a public transportation accident occurs, people who have been injured – or the families of those lost in fatal accidents – have a right to seek compensation for their losses.
Different Types of Public Transportation Accidents
Accidents occur in every mode of public transportation across our state:
- Trains – The Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) 2011 Crash Facts and Statistics says there were six fatal train crashes across the state in 2010 involving passenger lines, resulting in eight deaths.
- School buses – There were 1,476 school bus crashes in Illinois in 2010, which resulted in 276 injuries and five deaths, according to IDOT.
- Subways – The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) says it averaged more than two CTA train accidents per month in 2011.
- Public buses – The CTA says it averaged about 19 bus accidents each month in 2011.
These are simply the statistics that are available.
Smaller organizations, which transport tens of millions of riders in a year, may not compile or publish local statistics, but accidents happen. For instance, 18 passengers requested medical treatment in November 2012 after the Pace bus they were riding collided with a car in Chicago Heights. In 2004 and 2005, buses operated by the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District struck and killed pedestrians.
Train, bus and other public transit accidents, like other motor vehicle accidents, can cause death or severe impact injuries, including but not limited to:
- Broken bones
- Limb loss (amputation)
- Spinal cord injury
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Public Transportation Accidents Facts and Figures
Hundreds of thousands of Illinois residents rely on public transportation every day. This is particularly true in the Chicago metro area, where the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) offer public buses and trains, including the Metra subway service. School buses are another sector of public transportation responsible for millions of young riders every day.
The state or local government entities that sponsor public transportation services have an obligation to ensure that trains, subway lines, buses, etc., are operated safely. When a public transportation accident occurs, those who have been injured – or the families of anyone who has been killed – have a right to seek to be made whole financially for their losses.
Let’s take a closer look at these types of accidents.
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) operates the nation’s second largest public transportation system. The CTA sets annual goals for performance metrics in a variety of areas, including safety.
For both the bus and rail lines, the CTA defines a “safety-related incident” as “any event where one or more of the following occurs on the system:
- Individual dies at the time or within 30 days of the event
- One or more persons suffer bodily damage as a result of the event, requiring immediate medical attention away from the scene
- Property damage in excess of $25,000.
The CTA reports:
- 1,781 CTA buses operate over 140 routes and 1,959 route miles. Buses make about 19,709 trips a day and serve 11,493 posted bus stops. CTA buses travel 145,832 miles each day.
- The bus line had 0.44 safety-related incidents per 100,000 miles per month on average in 2011, or about 19 bus accidents each month. The average was the same for the first nine months of 2012.
- 1,200 CTA rail cars operate over eight routes and 224.1 miles of track. CTA trains make about 2,145 trips each day and serve about 145 stations. CTA trains travel 177,490 miles each day.
- The rail line had 0.04 safety-related incidents per 100,000 miles per month on average in 2011, more than two CTA train accidents per month. The average was 0.05 per 100,000 miles for the first nine months of 2012.
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) 2011 Crash Facts and Statistics report says there were:
- Six fatal train crashes across the state in 2010 in which motor vehicles were involved with trains, resulting in eight deaths.
- Six people were killed at railroad crossings with RR gates. Two died where there was an “other RR crossing device.”
IDOT also reports:
- 1,476 school bus crashes in Illinois in 2010, resulting in 276 injuries and five fatalities (none of the people who died were school-age children, thankfully).
- 1,195 school bus crashes resulted in reportable property damage.
- 1,333 school bus crashes were in urban areas, and 143 were in rural areas.
- 80 children age 5 to 19 were injured in school bus crashes in 2010.
- 61 school bus drivers were injured in crashes in 2010.
- 225 occupants of other vehicles were injured and five were killed in school bus accidents.
- Seven school-age pedestrians were injured in school bus crashes.
- 13 other pedestrians were killed and one was injured in school bus crashes.
- Seven pedalcyclists were injured in school bus crashes. IDOT defines “pedalcycles” as bicycles, tricycles, unicycles and big wheels.
Across the country, an average of six school-age occupants of school transportation vehicles and 13 school-age pedestrians die in school transportation-related traffic crashes each year, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Seek Legal Help after a Public Transportation Accident
Governmental agencies that offer public transportation, like buses and subways, are liable for the safety of their passengers. When a public transportation accident occurs, the agency can be held accountable, but it’s likely that multiple parties and insurance companies will quickly become involved to protect the agency’s interests.
In many cases, multiple parties should be involved in the aftermath of a public transportation accident. Often there are contractors, vehicle manufacturers and others who should be held accountable after a public transportation accident for their negligence or faulty equipment, which may have contributed to the crash or its severity.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an Illinois public transportation accident involving a train, bus or van, including school transportation, you have a right to pursue compensation for your injuries and losses. Contact a Chicago public transportation accident attorney at Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., in Chicago or Waukegan today for a free, no-obligation evaluation of your case. Call us toll-free or complete our online contact form.
- Performance Metrics, Chicago Transit Authority
- Illinois Traffic Crash Facts, Illinois Department of Transportation