Nearly 4,600 Safety Belt Zones in 2005, Goal is 6,000 in 2006
SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) Division of Traffic Safety (DTS) was singled out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from other Midwestern states for its efforts to increase safety belt usage. NHTSA recently awarded IDOT with a specially engraved Louisville Slugger baseball bat for stepping up to the plate on its safety belt enforcement efforts.
Illinois’ primary safety belt enforcement law, signed by Governor Rod R. Blagojevich in July 2003, is a key reason for reduced fatalities and increased safety belt use. Prior to becoming a primary enforcement state, Illinois safety belt usage was at 76 percent, but now two years later it has climbed 10 percent to 86 percent.
In the two years since Governor Blagojevich made Illinois a primary safety belt enforcement state, traffic fatalities have been at their lowest in more than 60 years. Traffic fatalities dropped from 1,454 in 2003 to 1,355 in both 2004 and 2005. The previous low was 1,328 in 1943.
“When you know 100 more people are alive today because of the changes we’re making in traffic safety, you know you’re making a difference, and that’s what government’s about,” Governor Blagojevich said.
“Legislation we worked to pass three years ago allowing law enforcement officials to stop drivers for not wearing their seatbelts resulted in a dramatic increase in compliance of the law,” said state Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago), chief sponsor of the primary seat belt law.
NHTSA awarded IDOT the specially engraved Louisville Slugger at its Great Lakes Region Law Enforcement conference. It reads, “Hitting it Hard with 4,590 safety belt zones,” and is in recognition of the specific enforcement zones where IDOT teams up with local and state police to focus on safety belt violations. The 4,590 safety belt zones by IDOT in 2005 were more than any other ever done by any state in the Great Lakes region. The goal for 2006 is to have more than 6,000 safety belt zones in Illinois.
“We are pleased with IDOT’s efforts to use safety belt zones and stepped up enforcement to increase compliance,” said Donald McNamara, Regional Administrator for NHTSA. “Safety belt zones are an important part of increasing usage and saving lives. It’s important that Illinois’ law enforcement and traffic safety communities continue to support these stepped up efforts.”
“We know less than 15 percent of drivers and passengers choose not to wear their safety belts, and yet they make up more than half of the vehicle occupants killed in crashes on Illinois highways every year,” Secretary Martin said. “Buckling up saves lives, it’s as simple as that, and IDOT is committed to getting everyone in Illinois to click it or ticket.”