At an event in Chicago on Monday,
Transportation Secretary Timothy W. Martin and Illinois State Police
Director Larry Trent explained that the Memorial Day mobilization
will specifically focus on the state's rural roads, which account
for 40 percent of Illinois' traffic fatalities. Press conferences
were also conducted in O'Fallon, Springfield,
Peoria and Rockford.
"This Memorial Day, more than 30
million people across the country will pack up their cars and hit
the road to enjoy a long weekend," Gov. Blagojevich said. "And, the
single most important way to protect yourself and your family in the
car is buckling up. In 2003, we changed the law in Illinois, giving
police the authority to stop motorists for not wearing their seat
belt. As a result, we're seeing more people than ever wearing their
seat belts. But, we must remain vigilant. That's why we are
launching this intense effort to make sure people stay safe while
traveling during the holiday weekend."
The 3,000 safety belt enforcement
zones that will be a part of the Memorial Day mobilization represent
an increase of 50 percent over the previous largest enforcement, in
2000. Illinois will place special emphasis on rural communities
during this mobilization because they make up a disproportionate
number of traffic fatalities, compared with more populated areas.
Nationally in 2003, 65 percent of fatal crashes occurred on rural
roads; and in Illinois, crashes on rural roads made up 40 percent of
"The most simple thing you can do to
save your life in a car crash is to buckle up, and while Illinois is
making some major strides in increasing compliance, there are still
a lot of people out there that just don't get it," Martin said. "In
an effort to meet Governor Blagojevich's goal of 1,000 or fewer
traffic fatalities by the end of 2008, we have to get more people
buckling up. I think we will get a strong message out to the public
with more than 3,000 seat belt enforcement zones during this
"The ISP is going to place special
emphasis on residential and rural roadways," said Trent, Illinois
State Police director. "Whether running an errand close to home or
driving on an expressway or interstate, motorists are at equal risk
of death or injury if they become involved in a traffic crash. No
matter the destination, always using your seat belt saves lives, and
we won't compromise on this effort."
[to top of second column in this article]
In July of 2003, Gov. Blagojevich
signed into law the more stringent primary enforcement seat belt law
and measures strengthening the use of child restraint systems. Since
then, there has been an increase in safety belt usage from 76
percent in 2003 to 83 percent in 2004.
Provisional numbers for 2004 show
the overall deaths on Illinois highways dropped by 98 to 1,356 from
1,454 traffic deaths in 2003. Provisional numbers through May 18
show a decrease of 42 in fatalities, from 463 during the same period
in 2004 to 421 this year. The number of children ages 0-9 years who
died in traffic crashes dropped by 12.5 percent in 2004 from 2003.
"The stronger seat belt laws
supported by Governor Blagojevich, coupled with enforcement efforts
by state police, are paying off," said Illinois Tollway Executive
Director Jack Hartman. "We've seen seat belt compliance on the
Illinois Tollway's interstates rise to 87 percent since primary
enforcement took effect."
Margaret Rossiter started Katie
Cares, an organization that emphasizes the use of child safety
seats, after her daughter was killed in a crash, in which her
granddaughter survived with only bruises.
"The impact of the crash was so
tremendous it killed my daughter, even though she was wearing her
seat belt, but because she made sure Mikaela was in a child safety
seat, she survived with only two little bruises on her legs,"
Rossiter said. "Car seats prevent injury and death. Mikaela is
living proof of that. Safety first -- every child, every time."
[News release from the governor's