Illinois Traffic Fatalities Lowest Since 1924, Seat Belt Usage Up to 90 %

July 17, 2008

Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced on July 15 that Illinois’ number of motorists and front seat passengers who buckle up in the state edged upwards and exceeded 90 percent for the second straight year. In addition, the Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) Division of Traffic Safety reports the overall number of fatalities on Illinois roads is down by 19 percent on a provisional basis for the first six months of 2008; from 598 in 2007, to 484 in 2008.

In addition, the number of teen fatalities is sharply lower in 2008, with 39 teen fatalities reported in the first six months of 2008 provisionally, compared to 82 in the first six months of 2007; a drop of 52 percent.

“Illinois drivers have done a great job of buckling up and reducing fatal crashes in the first half of 2008,” said Governor Blagojevich. “We want to see this trend continue, both for the overall population as well as teen drivers. That’s why Illinois State Police will continue to aggressively enforce the primary safety belt law, and will stop and arrest impaired drivers.”

Since the primary enforcement law was signed in July of 2003, safety belt use in Illinois has gone up 14.3 percent, from 76.2 percent in 2003 to 90.5 percent in the statewide survey just completed by IDOT’s Traffic Safety Division.

Prior to enactment of the primary enforcement law, police could not pull a driver over based solely on a safety belt violation. After the law took effect in 2004 and police began aggressive safety belt enforcement, safety belt use climbed to 83 percent by June of 2004, 86 percent in June of 2005, 88 percent percent in June of 2006, 90.1 percent in 2007, and 90.5 percent in June of 2008.

Only 13 states in the country attained that level of safety belt use last year. In addition to more people wearing their safety belts, fatalities on Illinois roads have steadily declined. In 2003, there were 1,454 total fatalities; in 2004, there were 1,355; in 2005, there were 1,363; in 2006, there were 1,254; and, in 2007, there were 1,248. The past two years have seen the lowest number of traffic fatalities since 1924, when there were 1,065.

For the first six months of 2008, IDOT has recorded reductions in a number of subcategories, including motorcycle fatalities, which are down from 65 in the first six months of 2007, to 54 in a provisional basis for 2008. In addition, fatalities on the Interstate highway system are down, from 72 in the first six months of 2007, to 54 provisionally in the first six months of 2008.

“There is an obvious correlation between safety belt use and the fatality rate. Although the historically low fatality rates and record safety belt use is certainly encouraging, the Illinois State Police will continue with our efforts to further reduce fatalities and to increase safety belt use,” said Illinois State Police Director Larry G. Trent. “If motorists choose not to buckle up, they will receive a ticket.”

Source: Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s Office, Illinois State Police

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