As Commander of Illinois State Police District 16, my main traffic safety priority is the reduction of fatalities resulting from traffic crashes. While we have had considerable success in lessening traffic deaths this year, currently we are 50 percent below our five-year average, which doesn’t mean it is any less of a priority.
For most people, driving is one of the most dangerous activities done day in and day out. Since we drive so often, we forget how dangerous driving actually is.
Did you know 924 people were killed on Illinois roads in 2009? In 2008, 1,043 fatalities occurred on Illinois roadways, and in 2007, 1,248 highway fatalities were reported. Since 2003, the data compiled represents a historic downward trend in crash-related deaths.
During the same time frame, safety belt usage has increased each year from 76 percent in 2003 to nearly 92 percent in 2009. A seatbelt can save your life. That is why District 16 troopers aggressively enforce seatbelt and child restraint laws.
What about the cause of the crash? Did you know speeding and driving under the influence are two of the top causes of crashes, especially when it comes to fatal crashes? Driving above the posted speed limit or speeding in bad weather conditions dramatically increases the probability that a motorist will crash. Drivers should always remember there is a reason posted speed limits and DUI laws exist.
Sadly, we saw 15 motorcycle-related fatalities in 2009 compared to three in 2008. Not surprisingly, speed and alcohol played a role in several of these crashes. I’m pleased that in 2010, we have only seen one motorcycle fatality to date. We have worked hard to address the problems that plagued us last year. District 16 troopers have conducted several directed patrols specifically designed to take impaired motorcyclists off the road and ensure all motorcycle operators are driving with the proper license classification.
I am well aware that it is not a great feeling when you are stopped for a traffic offense and given a ticket—I get it. I have had my share of “Don’t you have anything better to do?” comments, or “Shouldn’t you be chasing real criminals?” I have also been received by “Oh! Thank God you’re here” comments.
Since 1922, it has been the mission of the Illinois State Police to keep the highways safe, whether it’s by doing our part at controlling the chaos we all see occurring on the roadways or showing up to help a stranded motorist who is distraught over a flat tire. So when that trooper stops a motorist for “only” a speeding or “only” a seatbelt violation, remember they may have just indirectly saved a life—a life that may belong to you or someone you love.
Lt. Martin Zamudio
Illinois State Police District 16
From the July 14-20, 2010 issue