Illinois Traffic Fatalities Rise as Officials Look for Causes

Traffic fatalities in Illinois and across the U.S. spiked in 2015, due to gas prices, distractions, and other causes.

Last year was not a good one for traffic safety in Illinois. As The Times reports, figures from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) show that fatal car accidents in the state increased in 2015 to above 1,000 deaths. The increase comes after a long-term decline attributed to greater safety awareness, increased police enforcement, and improved vehicle engineering. The reversal of that decline has authorities worried and looking for explanations, which range from lower gas prices to an increase in distracted driving.

A Dangerous Year on the Road

Both in Illinois and across the United States 2015 proved to be a particularly deadly year. As of December 30, there were 1,000 traffic fatalities in Illinois in 2015, a nine percent increase from the 924 fatalities in 2014. Because that 1,000 figure does not include New Year's Eve fatalities, the final figure for 2015 will likely be higher. Over the past five years, for example, there has been an average of 39 traffic deaths in Illinois around the New Year's period.

The situation has not been much better nationwide. As the Chicago Tribune reports, figures from the first six months of 2015 show an eight percent increase in traffic fatalities across the U.S. That increase came after national traffic fatalities had declined by 0.1 percent in 2014. Traffic fatalities had also been declining steadily for about a decade prior to 2015 thanks to such factors as greater awareness of the dangers of drunk driving and better highway and vehicle design and engineering.

New Driving Dangers

The low cost of gas is being singled out as a main culprit behind the increase in traffic fatalities. With gas prices so low, drivers are able to spend more time on the road. In turn, more drivers leads to more traffic and thus to more opportunities for collisions to happen.

However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) points out that there are likely to be other factors behind the increase than gas prices alone. The improving economy, for example, may be making it easier for more teenagers to get behind the wheel. Teenagers and young adult drivers are already at an increased risk of being involved in an accident. Additionally, the threat from distracted driving may be underestimated. The NHTSA points out that while 10 percent of traffic deaths in 2014 were attributed to distracted driving, the true figure is likely to be much higher because distracted driving is so difficult to prove, especially when there are no surviving witnesses to a driver's behavior just prior to an accident.

Personal Injury Law

The vast majority of accidents happen because a driver makes a mistake or does something that he or she was not supposed to do, such as driving impaired, distracted, or recklessly. A personal injury attorney can help those who have been injured by a negligent driver. By contacting an experienced attorney today, accident victims will have somebody on their side who can protect their rights.