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Speeders on Cicero put on notice

‘They’re trying to save lives’

By Tim Hadac

For decades, many motorists have seemingly treated the stretch of Cicero Avenue between 47th Street on the north and Archer on the south as a kind of extension of the nearby Stevenson Expressway. It has not been unusual to see vehicles hitting 50 mph, especially those heading south to try and beat the long stoplight at Archer.

But posting the legal speed limit of 30 mph, as well as installing a stoplight at 50th Street, are measures that have not seemed to work.

In fact, with so many drivers running the red light, it may have made a bad situation worse, evidenced by the occasional t-bone crashes at and near the intersection.

In January, a 12-year-old girl was killed when her family’s Cadillac Escalade was hit in a head-on crash just south of 49th and Cicero. Last July, a 76-year-old woman lost her life when a Chevy Malibu traveling at more than 70 mph ran a red light at Archer and Cicero and smashed her Honda Prelude, just about cutting the vehicle in half.

AHCA, state police join forces

On and off for years, the Archer Heights Civic Association has sounded the alarm about the state of affairs on Cicero.

Earlier this month, the AHCA partnered with the Illinois State Police to set up a roadside safety check on Friday night, and a smaller enforcement action late Saturday morning to check for speeders.

On April 16, ISP officers issued a total of 41 traffic tickets and/or written warnings. The following day, a total of 12 tickets and/or warnings were issued. Curiously, in a city where traffic stops often lead to arrests based on findings of drugs, alcohol or weapons in vehicles pulled over, the ISP made no busts.

AHCA President Thomas S. Baliga, who observed the ISP action both days, was pleased with the results.

“Speeding on local streets is a driver-controlled act that can have fatal consequences,” he told the Greater Southwest News-Herald. “In the past 12-14 months there have been five catastrophic accidents in Archer Heights. One accident is ridiculous. Five is insane.

“As a civic group, we cannot just sit by while automated traffic control devices are available to prevent such carnage,” he continued. “While we push for installation of those devices to save lives, we will continue to press for more roadside safety checks where the citations issued cost more, but ultimately force drivers to observe the law.”

Baliga is a supporter of installation and use of red-light and speed cameras to improve both pedestrian and vehicular safety.

Public mostly supportive

Local reaction was mixed but mostly supportive among shoppers at the Walgreens at Archer and Cicero a day after the enforcement action.

“I don’t know if what the state police did will make a difference, but I do know that something has to be done,” said Vi Benedetto. “I give them and the Archer Heights group credit. They’re trying to save lives. I wish we had something like that on this side of Cicero Avenue.”

J.J. Drake laughed when he heard the news and said, “Oh man, you can write all the tickets you want—ain’t going to change anything. Folks just take those tickets and throw them away. People want to speed, they’re going to speed.”

Gerardo Segui said he was delayed by Friday night’s roadside action.

“I don’t like those things because they punish a lot of good drivers just to find a few bad apples,” he said. “I’d rather there be speeding cameras that catch bad drivers but leave the rest of us alone. Like the cameras they have near 55th and Karlov by Hancock [High School]. Do it that way. But yes, I appreciate the effort that they’re making.”

Crystal Escobar said she completely supports the ISP/AHCA effort. “We owe it to the people who died in these crashes, and we owe it to ourselves to do something about all these reckless drivers,” she said. “As the weather gets warmer, it’s only going to get worse. I think it’s great that police and a neighborhood group in Archer Heights is at least pushing back against these guys.”

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