Sometimes-deadly wrong-way crashes are growing more frequent in Chicago, statewide


CHICAGO (CBS) — It is hard to imagine anything more frightening on the road than headlights barreling toward you.

Wrong-way crashes can be devastating and often deadly. CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey has been digging into the problem in Illinois, and data obtained by the CBS 2 Investigators show a startling trend.

Such wrong-way crashes are up in recent years – not just in Chicago, but across the state of Illinois. In particular, DuSable Lake Shore Drive has seen its fair share – with the most recent example having happened early this past Sunday morning.

At 2:20 a.m. Sunday, a crash on DuSable Lake Shore Drive near 18th Drive and the Museum Campus led to a gruesome, fiery scene.

Police say the driver of a white sedan was going south in the northbound lanes when he hit a silver sedan head-on. The cars caught fire and both drivers died.

You might also remember in August, a wrong-way driver caused a fiery crash on Interstate 90 in rural McHenry County – leaving an entire family dead.

an entire family was killed by a wrong-way driver on I-90 in McHenry County. Lauren Dobosz and her four children; Emma, Lucas, Nick, and Ella were all killed in the crash, as were 13-year-old Kat Koziara – who was with the family – and the other driver,  22-year-old Jennifer Fernandez.

If it feels like these tragic scenes are happening more and more — that is because they are.

Data obtained by the CBS 2 Investigators from the Illinois Department of Transportation show wrong-way crashes jumped from 991 statewide in 2020 to 1,140 the following year.



The same is true specifically in Chicago. IDOT received reports for 305 wrong-way crashes in 2020, and 376 in 2021.



“After the pandemic, we’re just seeing higher rates of aggression, DePaul University transportation professor Joe Schwieterman.

Schwieterman said the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted traffic crashes on the whole. IDOT data do not specify if the driver in each wrong-way crash was impaired or distracted.

And while wrong-way driving can, in some circumstances, be the result of poor signage, Schwieterman said most indications point to something else.

“It’s just sort of the mental overload people feel, that they’re driving distracted or thinking about something else – God forbid they’re texting – and with that, bad decisions are being made – and it’s not a rare exception,” he said. “It’s a pretty disturbing trend.”

Just on Dusable Lake Shore Drive alone, Sunday morning’s fatal crash was the 21st wrong-way crash since 2019. It was also the second wrong-way crash in that same spot near the Museum Campus.

The majority of the crashes on the Drive were in Lincoln Park, South Chicago, and Hyde Park.

And unfortunately, the numbers from the first half of 2022 show the trend is continuing upward. 

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