Illinois Department of Transportation, Erica Borggren, Acting Secretary
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 12, 2010

CONTACT:
Josh Kauffman (IDOT) 217.558.0517
Guy Tridgell (IDOT) 312.814.4693

IDOT, State Police and Local Enforcement Boost Efforts to Increase Safety Belt Usage and to Help Curb Impaired Driving

New Data Reveals Back Seat Passengers Fatally Injured in Crashes are Nearly Twice as Likely to be Unbuckled Than Those in Front

Springfield – The Illinois Department of Transportation’s Division of Traffic Safety today released data showing a significant difference in safety belt usage between front and back seat occupants of passenger vehicles and light trucks. The Illinois crash data during the seven-year period from 2003 through 2009 show that back seat passengers who were killed in crashes were about twice as likely as front seat passengers to be unbuckled.

“Sadly, the holiday season, which for many is the happiest time of the year, can also be one of the deadliest and most tragic,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig. “Wearing a safety belt costs nothing, but not wearing it could cost you a ticket or worse…your life. The same applies when you have been drinking and choose to drive. We want all drivers and passengers to remember Click It or Ticket, day and night and You Drink & Drive. You Lose.”

The Illinois Department of Transportation’s Division of Traffic Safety (IDOT/DTS) partners with the Illinois State Police and more than 150 local law enforcement agencies across the state this holiday season to improve safety and decrease fatalities on Illinois roadways. Starting today and running through the next two weeks, nearly 900 Safety Belt Enforcement Zones will be conducted across Illinois. More than half of these enforcement zones will be conducted at night when belt usage is typically lowest.

In addition to the safety belt enforcement, law enforcement will also conduct roadside safety checks and impaired driving saturation patrols. Motorists are being warned that impaired driving or failure to buckle up, especially during late-night hours, will result in arrests or traffic tickets.

Currently, Illinois has a 92.6 percent daytime safety belt usage rate, up dramatically from 76.2 percent in 2003. Nationally more people are buckling up as well with an average national safety belt usage rate of 85 percent. The positive effect of Illinois’ increased safety belt usage rate is seen in the significant reduction in motor vehicle deaths in recent years. A total of 911 people died as a result of vehicle crashes in 2009, down from 1,454 in 2003 when safety belt use was much lower.

A closer look at the safety belt usage rate of those being killed and injured in crashes reveals that more progress is needed – especially for backseat passengers. In 2009, 628 passenger car occupants (passenger cars and light trucks) were killed in crashes in Illinois. Of those, 299 (47.6 percent) were properly restrained in a safety belt or child safety seat. In that same year, 74 back seat occupants (11.8 percent of total occupants) were killed in crashes and only 27 percent of them were properly restrained.

Finally, the 2005 linked crash and hospital discharge data in Illinois show that estimated hospital costs (charges) are significantly lower for belted occupants (drivers, passengers) than for unbelted occupants. The estimated average hospital cost per discharge for belted back seat occupants was $46,861 versus $67,685 for unbelted back seat occupants.

Currently, Illinois law does not require adults riding in the backseat to wear a safety belt. However, unbelted passengers, wherever they ride, create a dangerous situation for everyone in the vehicle. In a crash, an unbelted passenger can fatally injure belted passengers.

For more information about the Click It or Ticket and the You Drink & Drive. You Lose campaigns please visit www.buckleupillinois.org or www.drivesoberillinois.org.

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