Illinois drivers buckle-up for safety

Photo+Illustration+by+Beck+Diefenbach+Beck+Diefenbach%0A

Photo Illustration by Beck Diefenbach Beck Diefenbach

By Jon Hansen

For Meg Amos, senior in Education, it was an experience that she is likely never to forget.

On Monday, Amos and three other students were traveling to Ludlow for work when her car was hit from behind at a high speed.

Because they were wearing their seat belts, they avoided serious injuries and Amos said she learned an important lesson from the accident.

“In the future, I’ll be more cautious to make sure everyone has a seat belt on in my car when I’m driving,” she said.

Amos said she always wears her seat belt, and according to a new study, she is not alone.

A report released late last month said more Illinois drivers are wearing seat belts than ever before.

The Illinois Department of Transportation says that lives are being saved as a result.

In a statement, Gov. Rod Blagojevich said that 88 percent of front seat occupants were wearing their seat belts, up 2 percent from last year and 12 percent from 2003.

According to Illinois Department of Transportation spokesperson Matt Vanover, the numbers depict an accurate representation of Illinois drivers.

“We send out teams of people and they visually count every front seat passenger to come up with the number,” he said.

The statewide survey is conducted every year in June.

In 2003 Illinois’ safety belt compliance was 76 percent, it climbed to 83 percent in June of 2004 and 86 percent last year.

Blagojevich signed a primary enforcement seat belt law in July of 2003. Previously, police could not pull a driver over based solely on a seat belt violation.

“These numbers tell us that people are getting the message,” Blagojevich said in the statement. “More people than ever are wearing their seat belts and our roads are safer because of it.”

According to the report, in the past two years, the number of fatalities on Illinois roads have been lower. In 2003 there were 1,454 total fatalities, in 2004 there were 1,355 and in 2005 there were 1,360. Through the first six months of this year there were 607 fatalities, compared to 608 for the same time period last year.

Not everyone is happy with the seat belt law. Critics argue that making drivers wear a seat belt violates their personal rights.

Vanover disagrees.

“It’s a privilege to drive on Illinois roads,” he said. “You have to obtain a license and abide by the rules of the road, and these are the rules of the road.”

Illinois received nearly $30 million in funding from the federal government after the primary enforcement law took effect in 2003. That funding will be spent over the next three years, primarily for education and enforcement, as well as for additional safety engineering, according to the Illinois State Police.