SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced a record number of drivers are wearing their seat belts and that the state is on pace to set a new safety record on Illinois roads. The Illinois Department of Transportation reports that 86% of drivers observed were wearing their seatbelts, up ten percent from just two years ago. At the same time, 2005 is on pace to record the fewest number of persons killed on Illinois highways since 1924. Forty-one fewer people have lost their lives on Illinois highways during the first six months this year than the same time period last year.
“These new numbers tell us what we already know – the single most important way to protect yourself in the car is by buckling up,” said Governor Blagojevich. “In 2003, we changed the law in Illinois, giving police the authority to stop motorists for not wearing their seat belt. As a result, we’re seeing more people than ever wearing their seat belts and we’re seeing lives being saved.”
Before the primary enforcement law, police could not pull a driver over based solely on a seatbelt violation. At that time, seatbelt usage was just 76%. Since the Governor signed the law in July of 2003, safety belt usage climbed to 83% in June of 2004 and 86% in June of 2005.
“We are pleased with the efforts that have resulted in increased safety belt use in Illinois,” said Don McNamara, Regional Administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “To continue this life-saving trend, it is critical that Illinois’ law enforcement and traffic safety communities continue to support strong educational and enforcement activity like the Click it or Ticket campaign.”
In 2004, the first full-year of primary enforcement, there were nearly 100 fewer deaths, or 1,356, compared to 1,454 in 2003. Through the first six months of this year there have been 597 deaths, 41 fewer than through the first six months of 2004.
“We had the lowest number of traffic fatalities on our roads since 1944,” Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Timothy W. Martin said. “I think through continued education and stepped up enforcement with our law enforcement partners, we will be able to reduce that number to 1,300 or below, which would be the lowest since 1924.”
“We have a strong working relationship with IDOT and we share similar goals in keeping the roadways safe for everyone,” said Illinois State Police Director Larry Trent. “Ultimately it’s your decision. But, because we care about our citizens, Troopers will continue to take a zero tolerance approach in seat belt enforcement. It’s been proven time and time again—buckling up saves lives.”
In addition to primary seatbelt enforcement, another law signed by Governor Blagojevich is contributing to safer roads. The law increased the age of children to be restrained in booster seats from 4 years old to 8 years old. Since the Governor signed the law in 2003, the state has hosted a series of car seat inspection events with 21st Century Insurance. Illinois State Police Officers and members of the Illinois Department of Transportation have inspected over 953 child safety seat installations. In addition, 21st Century Insurance has provided over 1000 child safety seats to Illinois families.