Traffic fatalities have risen in the past two years in Illinois and the rest of the country, leading safety experts to review the vehicle safety laws of every state and to make recommendations about the changes that are needed. Illinois received an overall rating of “needs improvement” by the Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety because the state’s laws are not considered to meet what the safety organization identifies as optimal levels for accident prevention. The organization recommends improvements in the state’s motorcycle helmet law, booster seat law, learner’s permit minimum age, nighttime driving restrictions, passenger restrictions and age at which young drivers receive unrestricted driver’s licenses. An accident lawyer believes that if these improvements are made, the accident, injury and fatality rates will all decrease, saving millions of dollars and lives.
Illinois Accident Statistics
According to the Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, 998 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents in Illinois in 2015. The state’s 10-year total of fatalities was 11,532 deaths, and the annual economic losses in the state attributable to motor vehicle accidents total $10,885 billion. In 2014, 910 people were killed in accidents in Illinois, which means that there was an increase of fatalities between the two years of 8.8 percent. States across the country also have shown similar trends with increasing accident and fatality rates in 2015 and 2016. The upward trends have indicated a clear need for improvements in existing safety laws as well as some additions in Illinois and other states.
Optimum Vehicle Safety Laws
The Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety have identified 15 optimum safety laws that it believes all states should have. The optimum laws are based on research and vehicle accident data. For occupant safety, the organization recommends that states have primary enforcement laws, meaning officers can stop vehicles for violations, for both front and rear car occupant safety restraints. It also recommends that all motorcyclists are required to wear helmets. The AHAS recommends that booster seat laws should require that children use them until they are at least 57 inches tall and age 8.
The AHAS recommends exemptions should not be given to minor drivers from restrictions for completing drivers’ education programs. Instead, it recommends that all teen drivers should be ineligible for learners’ permits before they are 16. During the first six months of driving, the organization recommends that minors are supervised at all times by adult drivers. They also recommend that learning drivers have at least 50 hours of supervised driving practice during that six months with 10 of the hours occurring at night.
After drivers have completed their first six month learning period, they then should enter an intermediate phase. During it, nighttime driving restrictions should be from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. every day of the week, which means the drivers could not drive during those hours without adult supervision. The recommendations also include a restriction on the number of passengers to one person who is younger than 21 for drivers who are unsupervised.
The AHAS recommends that impaired driving laws include the following:
- Mandatory use of ignition interlock devices for all offenders
- For drivers who are impaired with children in the car, there should either be a separate charge for child endangerment or an aggravated penalty for the impaired driving charge
- Open container laws should include provisions prohibiting all occupants from having open containers and from consuming alcohol from them in vehicles
Finally, the AHAS recommends that all drivers should be prohibited from sending, receiving or reading text messages while they drive regardless of their ages. The only exception would be if an emergency happens. If this was enacted nationwide, an accident lawyer believes that the national rise in vehicle fatalities would likely be halted.
Improvements Recommended in Illinois
Several changes were recommended for Illinois. According to the AHAS, Illinois needs to enact a statute requiring motorcycle helmet use for all motorcyclists. The state’s booster seat law needs to be more robust and provide that children must use booster seats after they outgrow car seats until they are age 8 and are at least 57 inches tall.
There are several recommendations for improvements in Illinois’s law for minor drivers. The organization recommends that drivers not be allowed to get learners’ permits until they are age 16. They also recommend that the passenger restriction needs to be stronger and that a cell phone restriction is added. Finally, the AHAS recommends that Illinois pass a law requiring the installation and use of ignition interlock devices for all impaired driving offenders, including those who are convicted of their first offenses.
If the recommended changes were made to Illinois’s safety laws, an accident lawyer believes that research shows the accident, injury and fatality rates would all decrease. Until the laws do change, an accident lawyer recommends that people drive cautiously at all times.