Twenty truck-related deaths and 156 truck-related injuries in Will County, Illinois, have stirred a backlash by local citizens who are sick of 18-wheelers cutting them off, blasting through red lights, taking shortcuts on roads that are legally off limits to tractor trailers, busting through railroad crossing gates, speeding, tailgating and slamming on the brakes.
In an official announcement made last week, a strident coalition of county residents and the Village of Elwood launched Safe Roads Illinois to reduce the amount of heavy truck traffic in the surrounding area and make roads safer. The 20 deaths in the past two years included the loss of an 8-year-old from Crest Hill. She was killed in 2014 when her family’s minivan collided with a semi-truck on Route 53 after a birthday party. Her grandmother is at the center of the pushback.
“We deserve to drive on safe streets without fear that any trip might be our last. I won’t let [her] death be in vain,” Knauer said in a news release. “Our lives have been forever changed. We’re fighting to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.“
The new group has the support of Elwood Police Chief Fred Hayes, immediate past president of the Illinois Association of Police Chiefs. He has seen the area overrun by commercial truck traffic as developers have turned the county into a major hub of warehousing and intermodal facilities. He said an unacceptalbe number of the 159 truck injury accidents in Will County last year were caused because a semi truck failed to stop.
“Will County has turned into the Wild West, with brazen truckers blatantly disregarding and breaking the laws,” Chief Hayes said. “Residents have understandably had enough. They want to reduce the truck traffic and reclaim their neighborhoods, safety and quality of life.”
Even before the formal organization of Safe Roads Illinois, Will County residents used grassroots pressure to get the Illinois Commerce Commission to close the Walter Strawn rail crossing at Route 53 to tractor trailers. The petitioners cited an “immediate safety concern” after numerous near-misses between trains and trucks, the continuous breakage of railroad crossing gates (more than 50 in less than a year) and the countless veteran funeral processions that were cut off by trucks who could care less about disrupting a solemn community or family event.
Along with reducing truck traffic and limiting future development, the Safe Roads Illinois campaign will attempt to hold truckers accountable for disobeying the law; make developers liable for their actions; implement smarter trucking routes, toughen commercial driving licensing and stiffen penalties — especially when individuals or families say: “I was hit by a truck.”
Our law firm applauds this well-organized, fully warranted effort to take on a powerful industry that has become an increasing threat to the safety of families and individuals on American roads. Our law firm represents Minnesota residents who are victims of semi-truck negligence and over-aggressiveness. If you are a Minnesota resident, contact our law firm for a free lawsuit evaluation.