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  Illinois State Police News Release   

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Teen Fatalities Lowest on Illinois Roadways Since 1974

Press Release Date: April 14, 2005    || Archived May 25, 2005

Increased Illinois State Police seat belt enforcement zones and teen passenger law credited with helping to lower teen fatalities during 2004

Illinois State Police to increase enforcement to protect teens on the roads during Prom and Graduation season

SPRINGFIELD – On behalf of Governor Rod R. Blagojevich, Illinois State Police (ISP) Director Larry Trent and Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) Secretary Timothy W. Martin announced today that the number of teen deaths on Illinois roadways dropped to its lowest rate since 1974. The announcement was made at the Prevention Day 2005 crash re-enactment demonstration at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, which is planned by high school students who are part of the Sangamon County DUI Education Committee. Similar demonstrations were also held in each of the ISP's 21 districts.

Increased enforcement efforts during 2004 are credited for helping to reduce the number of teens, ages 15 – 19, killed in motor vehicle crashes. Preliminary 2004 fatality figures provided by the Illinois Department of Transportation indicate 133 teens were killed last year, the lowest rate since 1974, the year collection of teen fatality statistics began. In 2003, 187 teens lost their lives on Illinois roadways and 190 were killed in 2002.

"It's tragic anytime a child dies. That's why it's a top priority of my administration to protect our young drivers on Illinois roadways," said Gov. Blagojevich. "I applaud the efforts of our state and local law enforcement officers to save the lives of our youth."

In July 2003, Gov. Blagojevich signed legislation prohibiting teen drivers from carrying more than one other teenage passenger in the car for the first six months after receiving his or her license. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, data shows that each additional teen passenger increases crash risks by 50 percent.

"When this law was passed by Illinois lawmakers and signed by Governor Blagojevich, the National Safety Council estimated 10 teen lives would be saved each year," said Director Trent. "During 2004, 54 teenagers’ lives were saved, proof that the efforts of law enforcement are making a difference in reducing the fatality rate. To ensure this reduction continues, the ISP will remain dedicated to saving the lives of our youth."

Recognizing the need to modify teen driving behavior and to raise awareness on the use of seat belts and the consequences of underage drinking, especially during the upcoming prom and graduation season, the ISP will increase its enforcement efforts around schools this spring.

"Prom night and graduation are times of great excitement and celebration. Unfortunately, they are also the time of the year when teens are more likely to consume alcohol. Statistics indicate that alcohol-related peer pressure is strongest during this time of year due to the large number of parties in a short time period," added Trent.

Off-duty troopers will be hired back to work special emphasis patrols, including seat belt enforcement zones. Funding for the hireback details are provided by the United States Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and are administered by the Illinois Department of Transportation, Division of Traffic Safety.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in the U. S., not just for teenagers, but for children and adults from age four to 34. Among teen drivers, the fatality rate in motor vehicle crashes is approximately twice the rate for all ages.

"There's no question that wearing seatbelts saves lives," Secretary Martin said. "Our State Troopers and their local law enforcement partners deserve a ton of credit for getting out there and enforcing this new law and carrying out the Governor's mandate to reduce the highway fatality rate."

"Enforcement measures must be taken by parents as well," stressed Karel Ares, executive director of Prevention First, the Illinois affiliate of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. "They must make it clear that they expect that their teens will not drink or use other drugs, whether they are driving or not," she noted, adding, "and parents should offer to pick up their kids any time, anywhere, no questions asked, if they or the person who is driving is impaired."

Last year, Troopers issued 1,738 underage drinking citations and investigators conducted 2,163 Alcohol Countermeasure Enforcement (ACE) surveys at liquor establishments, resulting in 446 arrests.

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