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Illinois traffic deaths rose, but historical trend still positive

We've discussed here on more than one occasion the impact of Illinois traffic laws and speed limits on the number and severity of vehicle accidents on our state's roads. Now the Illinois Department of Transportation has released preliminary data about traffic fatalities last year. The numbers show that for the second year in a row, Illinois traffic deaths increased. There were 973 fatalities in 2013, which is an increase of almost two percent over last year. The rise between 2011 and 2012 was four percent.

So how did Chicago fare? According to IDOT, more than a quarter of Illinois' traffic deaths occur in Cook County. There were 250 fatalities last year. One particularly disturbing statistic from IDOT said that these deaths were the result of 232 accidents. That's an average of more than one fatality per accident.

Traffic experts say these increases are not unusual when you look at nationwide numbers and fluctuations. However, overall fatalities for 2013 are expected to be lower than in the previous year. They also point out that traffic fatalities are significantly lower than they were in the past and even a decade ago. In 2004, for example, Illinois had 1,355 traffic fatalities.

Representatives of IDOT credit stricter safety laws, such as mandatory seat belts. As technology changes, new laws are being implemented to keep up with them. For example, starting this year, using a handheld cellphone while driving is illegal in Illinois. However, another change, the increase in the speed limit on "rural interstate highways" in Illinois to 70 mph has some traffic safety professionals concerned.

The IDOT data noted that these numbers don't reflect the trend for pedestrians and those riding motorcycles and bicycles. Those fatalities are still increasing, in part because more people are eschewing four-wheeled vehicles.

Even drivers who obey all of the traffic rules and practice defensive driving can have their lives changed - or ended - in a second by a negligent driver. Victims and their families have every right to ask for compensation from the at-fault driver to cover medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering regardless if any criminal charges are filed against the driver.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Traffic deaths in Illinois rise for second straight year" Kim Geiger, Jan. 01, 2014

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