CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) launched its “Drive to Survive” campaign today and partnered with law enforcement across the state to kick off an end-of-the-year push to drive down the number of motor vehicle crash fatalities. The Illinois State Police (ISP) and nearly 300 law enforcement agencies statewide will be out in force boosting traffic safety through additional seat belt and DUI enforcement efforts during Thanksgiving weekend, one of the heaviest travel times of the year.
“Unfortunately, crash data shows that too many motorists, particularly after dark, still need a reminder to buckle up and drive sober,” Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann L Schneider said. “Our Drive to Survive campaign is aimed to raise traffic safety awareness across the state, while strongly encouraging positive driving behavior to ensure we all protect ourselves and others who share the road.”
The statewide “Drive to Survive” enforcement effort focuses on the deadly nighttime hours when data shows more vehicle occupants die in crashes than during any other time of day. For this reason, nighttime, particularly late-night, from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., motorists throughout Illinois will see roadside safety checks, seat belt enforcement zones and other police saturation patrols looking for seat belt law violators and drunk drivers.
This message was driven home today as traffic safety advocates at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago highlighted a few of the more popular excuses for driving drunk or not buckling up such as “I was only driving in town” and “I don’t want to pay for a taxi.”
“During this Thanksgiving holiday period, our collective efforts to raise public awareness about seat belts and driving under the influence are also underscored by personal responsibility. Law enforcement officers can only do so much to save lives and expect the motoring public to follow the law responsibly because the stakes are too high and the outcomes are tragic when these important safety measures are ignored,” said ISP Director Hiram Grau.
According to research by the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), lap/shoulder seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent, when restraints are used properly.
One concern is the high number of individuals who die unbuckled during nighttime hours. Studies show that an average of less than one-third of occupant fatalities are restrained properly using seat belts between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. During daytime hours, seat belt usage increases substantially, with 62 percent of vehicle occupant fatalities properly restrained. This lack of belt use means far too many people are dying on Illinois roadways, particularly during nighttime hours when alcohol often is involved.
During the 2011 Thanksgiving holiday (crashes that occurred from 6 p.m. on Wednesday before Thanksgiving to midnight on Sunday following Thanksgiving), eight people died in traffic crashes on Illinois roadways and 839 were injured. Of the eight individuals who were killed, four died in crashes where at least one driver had been drinking.
For more information about IDOT’s traffic safety programs, please visit http://www.trafficsafety.illinois.gov/.
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