Monday, Sept. 20


40% drop in holiday traffic deaths

Safest Labor Day in over 20 years          Send a link to a friend

[SEPT. 20, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois State Police announced Sunday that heightened public awareness and coordinated and aggressive efforts contributed to reducing traffic deaths from the recent Labor Day weekend to 12 -- the lowest such number since 1981.

"One of our most important jobs in state government is to protect our children and our families on Illinois roadways. That's why my administration has worked so hard with the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois State Police to make our roads safer. And, I believe this past Labor Day shows us our efforts are paying off," said Gov. Blagojevich.

"Reduced traffic deaths are the direct results of drivers being more alert and making smart decisions," said Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Timothy W. Martin. "We are working very closely with the Illinois State Police and other state agencies to send the message that if you drink and drive, you lose."

Over the last 24 years nearly 500 people have died on Illinois roadways over the Labor Day weekend, an average of more than 20 driving-related deaths per year. The reduction in highway deaths from 20 last year to 12 this year is seen as a result of stepped-up state education and enforcement efforts related to alcohol and seat belt use.

 "Illinois state troopers were out in full force this year working with city and county police to send the message statewide that we will not tolerate motorists who drive in a reckless fashion," said Illinois State Police Director Larry G. Trent. "I want to compliment the media for helping to get the word out, our schools and social service agencies for teaching our young people to drive safely, and family members who have prevented their loved ones from driving while intoxicated."

During the weekend of Sept. 3-6 the Illinois State Police issued 8,462 driving citations statewide, 458 (5 percent) related to alcohol and 2,381 (28 percent) for safety belt violations. These numbers compare with 8,094 driving citations in 2003, including 260 for alcohol (3 percent) and 3,681 for safety belt violations (45 percent).


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"Illinois is above the national average in alcohol-related deaths, and it is vital that we work together to reduce the number who are killed on our highways," said Martin. "We will continue to look for creative and effective new ways to get all Illinois motorists to buckle up and get impaired drivers off the road."

The improved holiday safety results come just more than a year after Gov. Blagojevich signed legislation changing the state's seat belt law from a secondary to a primary violation. Since the primary law was signed in July 2003, more motorists are buckling up. The Illinois Department of Transportation reports that in June of 2003, 76 percent of motorists were wearing their safety belts, and in 2004 the number of motorists buckled up had jumped to 83 percent. Illinois' 7 percent increase in seat belt usage was the highest compared with other states in the Great Lakes region. Indiana saw an increase from 82.4 percent to 83.8 percent; Michigan increased from 84.9 percent to 86.8 percent; while Minnesota dropped from 79.4 percent to 78.6 percent.

As a result of the primary seat belt law, Illinois will likely see an increase in federal funds it receives for safety programs once a new federal transportation spending bill is completed.

The Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois State Police are teaming up with local law enforcement agencies to conduct safety belt enforcements where a small contingent of police officers wave over and ticket motorists who are not wearing seat belts. Over the recent Labor Day weekend, state officers also teamed up with county and municipal police around the state to conduct roadside sobriety tests.

[News release from the governor's office]

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