by Dwayne T. Ervin
Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has seen more seat belts use fewer cars on the road, which led to 1,043 fatalities last year as compared to 1,248 in 2007.
The high cost of fuel caused a traffic drop by 2 percent with less traffic. A higher safety belt usage rate, which was 90.5 percent, has caused less people to die on the roads, according to IDOT spokesperson Paris Ervin. The “Click it or Ticket,” program is enforced in Illinois to make drivers aware of their safety by using seat belts in motor vehicles.
“We [IDOT] believe the strong presence of law enforcement in the state has contributed to the [fatality] numbers drop,” said Michael Stout IDOT Division of Traffic Safety Director.
The Operation Teen Safe Driving program is in over 100 schools in Illinois and has helped in a 40 percent reduction in teen deaths from 2007 to 2008. Students in the program are required to identify issues relating to traffic safety in their communities and to implement an awareness curriculum that combats the traffic safety problem in their schools. Selected schools were chosen based on their effectiveness in identifying the problem, creativity of proposals in addressing the problem and the program’s ability to reach teens and the entire community.
According to Stout, the new graduated driver’s license law, which was effective January 2008, increased the number of hours a student had to be behind the wheel. The law increased the amount of hours the students drive with the parents.
Drivers from the graduated program cannot have more than one non-related teen in their cars for their first year of driving. The law for having the permit for nine months causes teens to experience several different conditions of cold, the rain, and ice. Before the law, a driver with a permit would only have to wait three months and it did not matter which three months.
To continue the decline in fatalities, “We will continue our program of ‘Click it or Ticket You Drink and Drive you Lose, Operation Teen Safe Driving Spring and Summer Motorcycle,’ program and continue strong presence of law enforcement to enforce the laws,” Stout continued.
There has been a small decrease in drunk driving. It is our weakest area. “We have not seen the same improvement in those numbers as we have seen in other areas,” he stated. The Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device was introduced in January this year for first time DUI violators.
“We [IDOT] think it is underreported when people have crashes they don’t admit that they were talking on their cell phone or texting somebody,” he mentioned. “It is usually information that people do not provide.”
“We think there are more crashes from distractive driving than what the data shows. Unless it is a fatality, law enforcement is not going to investigate it. It is a problem that we continue to address.
The legislature is working on a law about distractive driving, texting is illegal in Illinois and we support it and hope it passes and the governor signs it.
Senior citizen drivers already have to be tested more often than younger drivers are. Most of our elderly citizens know when they should or should not be behind the wheel.