SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Governor Rod R. Blagojevich joined with the Illinois Department of Transportation and Illinois State Police to announce that Illinois’ primary seatbelt law is proving to be extremely effective in its first year on the books. Governor Blagojevich signed the legislation last July, changing the state’s seat belt law from a secondary to a primary violation.
“Protecting our children and families is the number one goal of state government, and we are seeing the positive results of making it a primary offense to not wear your seat belt in Illinois,” said Governor Blagojevich “Statistics are showing us now what we knew all along: buckling up is the single most effective way to protect yourself and your children. By giving police the authority to stop motorists for not buckling up, we are saving lives.”
Since Governor Blagojevich signed the primary seat belt legislation, more motorists are buckling up. The Illinois Department of Transportation reports that in June of 2003, 76% of motorists were wearing their safety belts; in 2004 the number of motorists buckled up had jumped to 83%. The number of persons killed in automobile accidents from January 2003 to July was 725, during the same time period in 2004 that number had decreased to 662, a decrease of 63.
“We fully believe that 63 people are walking around in our state today thanks to the primary seat belt enforcement law, people who would not be alive today if this law was not passed,” said Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Tim Martin. “Education is an important component to our safety programs, and we will continue our Click It or Ticket program to educate motorists, but unfortunately, enforcement is the only thing that gets through to some drivers, they will not buckle up without the threat of a ticket.”
Illinois’ 7% seatbelt usage was the highest increase in the Great Lakes Region compared to other states. Indiana saw an increase from 82.4% to 83.8%, Michigan increased from 84.9% to 86.8%, while Minnesota dropped from 79.4% to 78.6%. By passing the primary seat belt law, Illinois will likely see an increase in federal funds it receives for safety programs once a new federal transportation-spending bill is completed.
The Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois State Police have teamed up with local law enforcement agencies to conduct safety belt enforcements, where a small contingent of police officers will wave over and ticket motorists who are not wearing seat belts.
“Motorists need to buckle up on every trip, every time,” Illinois State Police Director, Larry G. Trent said. “You have to understand, you’re at equal risk, whether it’s driving on the Interstate hundreds of miles from home, or just running a neighborhood errand. Buckling up may not just save you some money for not getting a ticket; it will save your life.”