The Village of Oak Lawn is not likely to move very quickly to add stop or yield signs to intersections that don’t currently have any despite a fatal accident at one such intersection on Memorial Day.
Jackie Chavez Ruiz, an Oak Lawn mother of four, was killed in the Memorial Day accident at 98th and Meade, where there are no stop signs at any of the streets. Residents have previously asked for a sign there and were supported by Trustee Robert Streit in that unsuccessful quest.
In light of the accident and renewed interest from residents seeking a stop sign, Streit raised the issue again. “I thought it would be a no-brainer that the village step in and correct this situation at this and other intersections without signs,” said Streit. He said that in driving throughout the village he has become more aware of the fact that there are multiple intersections such as 98th and Meade that don’t have any kind of traffic sign.
While Streit may have thought the process would be easier, he may have to change his thinking based on emails he has received from Oak Lawn Police Chief Michael Murray and Village Manager Larry Deetjen. On Friday, June 10, 2016, Streit began the email conversation by contacting Murray and Deetjen asking for Murray’s opinion on placing either a stop sign or yield sign at every intersection in order to avoid fatalities.
From: Robert Streit [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Friday, June 10, 2016 10:42 AM
To: Michael Murray
Cc: Larry Deetjen
Subject: Lack of signage in Oak Lawn
I want to discuss the lack of signage at Oak Lawn neighborhood intersections. I have been contacted by several residents in the wake of the horrible tragedy at 98th & Meade over the Memorial Day weekend where an Oak Lawn resident died in a car accident. Since this accident occurred, as I drive through the Village I have observed that many intersections have no signage whatsoever. In your opinion should some sort of comprehensive action take place that would provide for some signage at all intersections in Oak Lawn? I believe someone should have to YIELD at every intersection. As the Chief Public Safety Officer in Oak Lawn I’d like to know how you feel about this issue.
That same day, Chief Murray responded but it was not the enthusiastic response that Streit may have expected with Murray claiming that all drivers should yield at those intersections and that laws are already on the books.
On Jun 10, 2016 3:59 PM, Michael Murray <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
You are correct, whether regulated by signage or not, every driver bears the responsibility to yield ( sometimes even though they have the right of way) to avoid crashing. However, Signage does not always equate to obedience.
According to the Illinois Compiled Statutes;
Sec. 11-601. General speed restrictions.
(a) No vehicle may be driven upon any highway of this State at a speed which is greater than is reasonable and proper with regard to traffic conditions and the use of the highway, or endangers the safety of any person or property. The fact that the speed of a vehicle does not exceed the applicable maximum speed limit does not relieve the driver from the duty to decrease speed when approaching and crossing an intersection, approaching and going around a curve, when approaching a hill crest, when traveling upon any narrow or winding roadway, or when special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions. Speed must be decreased as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person or vehicle on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care.
Sec. 11-901. Vehicles approaching or entering intersection.
(a) When 2 vehicles approach or enter an intersection from different roadways at approximately the same time, the driver of the vehicle on the left must yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right.
With regard to the crash on Memorial Day, the driver of the vehicle being driven S/B on Meade was ticketed for violating both of the above statutes.
The Traffic Review Committee was established long ago to review these types of requests to avoid the posting and removal of signage based on individual request. The Committee looks for a unified decision based on the overall support from the community, but more importantly the statistical data to support the placement of the signage and I support that process.
From time to time there will be instances where the need is blatantly obvious and swift action must be taken but those instances are rare. There has been only one other accident at this intersection since January 2010. Suffice to say, laws are already in existence that cover the responsibilities of drivers at uncontrolled intersections.
Late that same night, Deetjen also responded agreeing with the police chief.
From: Larry Deetjen <email@example.com>
To: Michael Murray <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: Robert Streit <email@example.com>
Sent: Fri, Jun 10, 2016 11:02 pm
Subject: RE: Lack of signage in Oak Lawn
Thank you Chief. Well addressed. Larry
Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE DROID
Streit said that while he understands the law, the fact that the other driver was “cited” for traffic violations is of very little comfort to the family and friends of the victim, Jackie Chavez Ruiz. He said that the intersections without any stop or yield signs are “accidents waiting to happen” noting that this time the accident had two cars but it could have just as easily been a jogger, a cyclist, or a student walking across the street.
The Village of Oak Lawn has a seven member “Traffic Review Committee” appointed by the Mayor and Board of Trustees. The ordinance creating the committee has a seventeen step process for approving signs at intersections. The Traffic Review Committee can act on its own recommendation or by a petition of concerned residents.
In addition to the seventeen step process, the ordinance provides that question of signs can be addressed directly by the village board. The ordinance states:
Where a requested traffic change involves serious imminent safety issues that cannot be addressed adequately through the procedure for traffic changes as outlined in subsection E of this section, the requested change may be heard directly by the village board without going through the procedure for traffic changes as outlined …
Streit said that the death of Jackie Chavez Ruiz certainly shows the need for immediate action by the board but he is disheartened that the police chief and village manager don’t agree. “I don’t think we should be waiting around when the public’s safety is at risk,” said Streit.