Last week was dominated by the Virigina Tech study on distracted driving, and Illinois Govern Patrick Quinn’s signing of a measure that bans texting and emailing while driving. Another safety issue being currently being addressed to prevent motor vehicle accidents in Chicago is the Kennedy Expressway “suicide” merge lane renovation.
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is using federal stimulus money to help ease traffic flow and make the left-lane entrance and exit ramps safer for drivers merging onto the expressway, as well as for those driving in thru traffic. This is good news for people driving in and around Chicago. The so called “suicide merges,” or left-lane merges that require drivers to maneuver into the fast left-lane side of traffic, are extremely dangerous, and have been the site of several catastrophic truck and car crashes throughout the years.
The Kennedy is the second busiest expressway in Chicago, used by thousands of trucks, semi tracker-trailers and cars each day. The left-lane mergers, especially near the Hubbard Cave area, can be particularly hazardous. Not only do drivers merging have to either speed up or slam on their brakes in a short distance, but also on-coming traffic cannot always see a merging vehicle until it is too late.
Because it is difficult for on-coming traffic to clearly see merging vehicles, and because merging vehicles have such a small window to merge, motor vehicle collisions are common, especially during rush hour. Serious accidents, such as rollovers and multi-vehicle accidents have occurred at these locations. Car accidents occurring on the highway can have catastrophic, potentially fatal results.
A normal traffic merge occurs on the right lane; the slow lane of traffic. As the Illinois “Rules-of-the-Road” booklet explains, there is usually a speed-change lane, allowing a driver “to gain the necessary speed before merging.” However, the “suicide merge” lanes on the Kennedy are located on the left lane (or fast lane) of traffic. According to IDOT, there is not enough land to build safer right-hand entrance ramps, so part of the new construction is to lengthen the left-hand speed change lanes, and improve lines of site. Longer speed-change lanes will give drivers a chance to accelerate to common speed, and lines of site will help on-coming and merging traffic more safely merge, and hopefully prevent serious car and truck accidents from occurring in that location.
With new laws banning texting and email while driving coming into effect next year, coupled with safer left-hand merge lanes, driving in Chicago will be a little safer. And safety is good for everyone. To speak with an experienced Chicago car accident attorney concerning a serious motor vehicle collision, contact Passen & Powell at (312) 527-4500 for a free consultation.