SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that 2006 was the safest year on Illinois roadways in more than 80 years as traffic fatality numbers dropped below 1,300 for the first time since 1924. Nearly 100 fewer people were killed on Illinois highways during 2006 than 2005, while at the same time safety belt usage neared 90 percent.
“We had one primary goal in mind when we signed a law giving police the power to pull drivers over for not wearing safety belts - saving lives. Now, only three and a half years later, we recorded the fewest fatalities on Illinois roadways since 1924. These numbers represent clear and convincing evidence to us that the law is working and seat belts really do save lives,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
Preliminary data shows 1,267 traffic deaths on Illinois roadways in 2006, the lowest total since 1,065 deaths recorded in 1924. Since 2003, traffic fatalities have dropped from 1,454 to 1,355 in 2004 and 1,363 in 2005. During that same timeframe safety belt usage has increased each year from 76 percent usage in 2003 to 88 percent usage in 2006.
“While increased safety belt usage is certainly a key to saving lives on our highways, it’s not a magic bullet. That’s why we’re working closely with the Illinois State Police and local agencies for increased enforcement and motorist education,” said Timothy W. Martin, Secretary of the Illinois Department of Transportation. “Gov. Blagojevich challenged us to try new things aimed at saving lives and for the first time we now have a Comprehensive Highway Safety Program, we’ve added 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.”
Illinois State Police have aggressively been targeting what are known as the “Fatal Five” violations in an effort to reduce highway fatalities. The “Fatal Five” include: speeding, safety belts, improper lane usage, following too closely and driving under the influence.
“We know that through aggressive enforcement of the “Fatal Five” we are saving lives,” said Illinois State Police Director Larry Trent. “It’s unfortunate that the threat of receiving a traffic ticket appears to provide a strong deterrent to these types of violations. We’d much rather see citizens comply for the mere fact that it saves lives. The ISP will, however, continue to do whatever it takes to keep our citizens safe.”
Recently, Illinois was named by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety as one of the four “Best Performance States” in its fourth annual highway safety report.
The Governor has made improving traffic safety issues a top 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 while driving by those 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 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;
• Tougher penalties for driving on a DUI-revoked license; and
• A law that allows for expanded use of DUI funds by local agencies.