SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced Illinois motorists are buckling up at an all time record rate, with almost nine in ten drivers and front seat passengers wearing their safety belts. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) reports that 88% of front seat occupants observed were wearing their seatbelts, up two percent from last year and 12% from when Governor Blagojevich signed the primary safety belt enforcement law in 2003. Also, through June 30th of this year there were 607 people killed on Illinois highways, one fewer than a year ago, and 64 fewer than the same period in 2003, before the primary seat belt law was in place.
"When I signed the law three years ago that gave police the authority to stop drivers for not wearing their safety belts, the goal was to save lives. These numbers tell us that people are getting the message. More people than ever are wearing their seatbelts and our roads are safer because of it," said Governor Blagojevich.
Governor Blagojevich signed the primary enforcement law in July of 2003. Prior to that, police could not pull a driver over based solely on a seatbelt violation. Since 2003 there has been an increase in safety belt usage of 12 percentage points; in June 2003 Illinois’ safety belt compliance was 76%, it climbed to 83% in June of 2004 and 86% in June of 2005. IDOT’s 2006 safety belt survey shows usage at 88%.
"Illinois continues to move in the right direction as motorists are taking notice and buckling up in record numbers," said Don McNamara, Regional Administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "IDOT and the state police must continue enforcement and education efforts on what we know saves lives, the fatal five: safety belts, speeding, improper lane usage, following too closely and impaired driving."
Illinois received $29.7 million in additional safety funding from the federal government because of the primary safety belt enforcement law signed by Governor Blagojevich in July of 2003. That funding will be spent over the next three years, primarily for education and enforcement, as well as for additional safety engineering.
"We are making Illinois roads safer, whether it’s through fear of a ticket, or finally understanding it’s the easiest way to save your life in a car wreck, more motorists are buckling up," Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Timothy W. Martin said. "We’re trying new things aimed at safety, for the first time we have a Comprehensive Highway Safety Program, we’re adding a new Motorcycle Enforcement Bureau, photo radar and aggressive enforcement and public information campaigns to get motorists to buckle up, slow down and not drive impaired."
Since the primary safety belt law, fatalities on Illinois roads have been down by nearly 100 each year. In 2003 there were 1,454 total fatalities, in 2004 there were 1,355 and in 2005 there were 1,360. Through the first six months of this year there were 607 fatalities, compared to 608 for the same time period last year and 648 in 2004.
"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."
The Governor has made improving traffic safety issues a priority for his administration and has actively supported legislation to reduce fatalities on our state’s highways. Previous traffic safety measures signed by the Governor include:
A law that doubles the amount of time a teen must have behind the wheel before receiving their license;
A law that bans teen drivers from carrying more than one passenger for the first six months after receiving his or her license;
A law that bans cell phone use by drivers under 18;
Requiring drivers under 18 to make sure that their teen passengers are buckled properly in the front and back seats;
A law that raised the age at which children must be in booster seats from 4 to 8.
Increased penalties for drivers over the age of 21 who transport a child under the age of 16 while impaired;
Chemical testing required for those arrested for hit-and-run;
Harsher sentencing for causing a death while driving impaired; and
Tougher penalties for driving on a DUI-revoked license.