On February 10 at around 9 PM, Richard Pallardy was walking home to his apartment near Fullerton and Sacramento from a swim at Logan Square’s Kosciuszko Park. Strolling south on Kimball, the 33-year-old freelance writer began crossing Wrightwood in the crosswalk, with a walk signal. As he did so, a northbound driver made a sudden left turn on Wrightwood and struck him.
“The car crashed into me, sent me flying, and took off,” Pallardy said. The driver fled west on Wrightwood and disappeared into the night.
Pallardy landed on all fours, and hit his face on the ground. He suffered a broken nose and cheekbone, a split lip, a sprained wrist, battered knees, and various cuts and abrasions. His low-cost health insurance plan requires him to pay about $3,000 toward his hospital bills, he’ll be out roughly another $1,000 for the ambulance ride, and he may eventually need more surgery because he hasn’t fully recovered his sense of smell.
Still, Pallardy was relatively lucky. Unlike many crash victims, he survived. And yet his case is representative of Chicago’s larger hit-and-run problem.
As I noted a year ago, when 34-year-old mechanic Christopher Sanchez was killed in Avondale, 40 percent of Chicago pedestrian fatalities between 2005 and 2014 involved drivers who fled, according to Chicago Department of Transportation data. This issue has continued to be a persistent problem since then, and although the driver who hit Sanchez was apprehended, bringing offenders to justice is often an uphill battle.
While there were a few witnesses to Pallardy’s crash, no video has been found yet, and no one seems to have taken down the driver’s license plate number. Bill Lustro, a deliveryman who was driving down Kimball behind the hit-and-run motorist, described the car to police as a dark-colored, perhaps blue or black, two-door coupe, possibly a Nissan, with a small spoiler. Pallardy and other witnesses say the vehicle may have been silver.
But the Chicago Police Department has yet to identify the driver, and Pallardy says that so far dealing with the police has been frustrating.
—Crash survivor Richard Pallardy
Responding officers—who didn’t arrive on the scene until 20 minutes after the crash—told him he would be called the next day, but that didn’t happen. When Pallardy contacted the 14th District police station soon afterward, he says he was told to call CPD’s Major Accidents Investigation Unit. Pallardy says that an officer there initially told him that it was unlikely the unit would receive paperwork from the 14th District in time to access nearby security camera footage before it was erased.
“When I pointed out how problematic that was . . . he reversed course and said it was possible there still might be footage that could be viewed,” Pallardy says.
CPD’s Office of News Affairs says the investigation of Pallardy’s crash is ongoing, but didn’t respond to other questions about the case.
Pallardy also e-mailed his alderman, the 32nd Ward’s Scott Waguespack, 35th Ward alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, and state rep Will Guzzardi, whose districts include the crash site, asking them to contact the police and encourage them to actively investigate his case and add traffic enforcement to the area bounded by Fullerton, Kedzie, Diversey, and Central Park.
“I constantly see people speeding and blowing stop signs at full speed in that area,” he says.
Waguespack and Guzzardi’s offices responded to Pallardy’s e-mails within a day and contacted the police on his behalf, but the 35th Ward was a different story, Pallardy says. After several days of radio silence, on February 18 he tweeted a GIF of an incredulous-looking Prince with the caption:
When the #alderman in whose ward your accident occurred can’t be bothered to respond… #logansquare #chicago @CDRosa pic.twitter.com/y2EHN80eYH
— Richard T. Pallardy (@RTPallardy) February 18, 2017
He also tagged Ramirez-Rosa. That got the alderman’s attention. On February 21 Ramirez-Rosa e-mailed Pallardy to apologize for his staff’s having missed his previous message and said his office had reached out to the 14th District. He also told Pallardy that his staff had looked up Illinois Department of Transportation crash numbers for Wrightwood and Kimball and found that there were no pedestrian collisions near the intersection between 2009 and 2014, the most recent year for which IDOT data is available.
“We will work with the Chicago Department of Transportation to further investigate this matter and determine the appropriate course of action based on the crash data that will include your hit and run,” he wrote.
Despite the lack of previous pedestrian crashes at Wrightwood/Kimball, there were 1,759 reported crashes—including 81 pedestrian crashes and 74 bike collisions—within the Fullerton/Kedzie/Diversey/Central Park quadrant between 2009 and 2014, according to IDOT data collected via the Chicago Crash Browser website.
When I contacted 35th Ward chief of staff Monica Trevino about efforts to reduce crashes in the ward, she said the alderman has allocated $500,000 for safety infrastructure in recent years. These projects include curb extensions, pedestrian islands, walk signals with countdown timers, and an upcoming traffic-calmed, bike-friendly “neighborhood greenway” on Wellington between Kedzie and Kimball. A 35th Ward staffer also called the Major Accidents unit on Pallardy’s behalf, Trevino says.
Last week Pallardy retained FK Law, a firm that focuses on bike and pedestrian crashes (and a Streetsblog sponsor) to investigate the case in hopes of identifying the driver and recovering damages. Attorney Jim Freeman told me he’s currently trying to access video from security cameras on buildings near the intersection, although he says the chance of finding video of Pallardy’s crash a month after the fact and then locating the vehicle is “kind of a long shot.” But, he argued, “It’s more than the cops are going to do.”
Whatever Pallardy and his lawyers accomplish, it would be great to see CPD be more aggressive about trying to solve hit-and-run cases. As Pallardy acknowledged, the department currently has its hands full.
“I understand that the CPD has a huge number of crimes to deal with,” he says, “but a felony hit-and-run like the one I experienced should be pretty high on the priority list, and it doesn’t seem to be.”
If you get struck by a driver who flees, you shouldn’t have to retain a lawyer in order to have investigators search for the culprit in earnest. v
John Greenfield edits the transportation news website Streetsblog Chicago.