According to data collected by the Illinois Department of Transportation, the rate of car crashes and fatalities is steadily increasing. In 2013, there were 782 motor vehicle accidents per day, the highest on record since 2008. Safety experts blame a variety of factors for the increase in fatalities including lower gas prices and an improving economy which encourages more people to drive.
In 2013, 991 people died in car accidents. Luckily, in 2014 the number of fatalities dropped by 67 to 924. For traffic fatalities, 2013 was the single deadliest year since 2008 during which 1,043 deaths were recorded. However, State officials are optimistic because 2014 marked the sixth consecutive year that traffic fatalities stayed below 1,000.
Furthermore, Cook County recorded a steady decrease in deaths even as the number of statewide car crashes rose. In 2012, 270 people died in car accidents. In 2013, that number dropped to 250 deaths. Preliminary numbers in 2014 indicate 250 people died in car-related accidents.
It also appears that 18-year old drivers account for the highest rate of involvement in collisions. In 2013, 33 18-year olds died in car crashes, and a further 2,904 were injured. All teen drivers, ages 16 to 19, accounted for seven percent of fatal collisions and ten percent of severe injuries.
These figures illustrate that two people die every day in car crashes in Illinois. Moreover, that Cook County alone represents nearly one-third of all Illinois car-related fatalities. These numbers are significantly lower than the 1,500 plus traffic fatalities recorded slightly over a decade ago, but they are still among the highest rates since 2008.
Data collected by the Department of Transportation shows that an average of nine people suffers an injury in Illinois per hour in car-related accidents. The data also indicated that deer on the road were involved in five percent of all collisions and tractor-trailers were involved in four percent of crashes. However, tractor-trailers account for a disproportionate ten percent of fatalities, likely because of the increased size of the colliding vehicles.
The State also estimates that motorcycles, despite only accounting for one percent of all crashes in 2013, accounted for 16 percent of all fatalities. Unfortunately, the data also indicated that bicyclists accounted for two percent of deaths and pedestrians a further one percent.
The National Safety Council estimates that the cumulative cost of all those crashes is around $5.7 billion.
Interestingly, the number of fatalities dropped statewide and in Cook County, even as the number of car collisions increased by four percent.
Statewide in 2013, there were 285,477 car accidents, which is a significant increase from 2012 in which there were 274,111 crashes. However, state safety officials point out that more Illinoisans were driving on the road. State officials noted an increase in 2013 of about one billion more driven miles, to 105.5 billion, over 2012. Inevitably as more people drive, more accidents will occur.
Furthermore, in Cook County, there were 137,271 vehicle-involved accidents in 2013, which is 5,689 more collisions than 2012. Vehicle involved accidents cover both classic car collisions and crashes into pedestrians, bicycles, and stationary objects. But, officials also point out that the number of fatal crashes in Cook County decreased 15 percent from 2009 to 2013.
State officials point to a variety of safety precautions to account for the drop in fatalities. State safety officials cite the use of improved guardrails, rumble strips on roads, and barrier systems. Moreover, Illinois recently passed a series of traffic laws, including forbidding talking on cell phones while driving (uncles the device is hands-free), which likely discouraged dangerous behavior.
Officials also believe that car safety technology is improving. New cars are equipped with automatic avoidance systems and improved airbags, which all amount to reduced fatalities.
The state also launched a social media campaign to raise awareness of bad driving habits. State safety officials are specifically targeting young men who tend to drive drunk more often and fail to buckle their seatbelt. Officials are hopeful these efforts will continue to reduce the number of traffic fatalities per year.
However, not everyone is convinced. Critics of Illinois’ programs point to the prevalence of bad behavior among drivers. According to Department of Transportation data, one-third of all crashes involved speeding vehicles. Moreover, about one-third of all fatal crashes involved alcohol.
To address the high numbers of bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities, state officials undertook several programs to make cities friendlier to non-motorized forms of transportation. However, recent government audits indicate mixed success, at best, at reducing fatalities. In 2013, there were 4,718 accidents involving pedestrians which resulted in 125 deaths and 4,419 injuries. However, these numbers represent a slight decrease from 2012, which recorded 139 pedestrian deaths.