On behalf of Steven Seidman
As total traffic fatalities drop, greater DUI awareness credited with safer roads
Illinois officials recently announced that 2014 was the sixth consecutive year that the state saw fewer than 1,000 traffic deaths, according to CBS Chicago. The long-term decline in fatal car accidents has at least been partly attributed to greater awareness and enforcement of DUI laws. Fatal drunk driving accidents have plummeted over the past decade as police have stepped up efforts against those who drink and drive. However, the campaign against drunk driving has proven to be highly uneven, with rates of DUI arrests varying considerably by county.
The Illinois Department of Transportation says that there were just 910 traffic deaths in the state last year, the lowest recorded number of such deaths since 1921 and the sixth year in a row that fatalities have stayed below the 1,000 mark.
While officials credit last year’s exceptionally low fatality rate to bad winter weather keeping many drivers off the road, it is important to understand that 2014 was part of a long term downward trend. Just two decades ago, for example, annual traffic deaths stood at 1,554, while a decade later they had dropped to 1,355, and have largely continued dropping since then.
Drunk driving down
As the Chicago Tribune reported, one of the big factors driving down overall fatalities is that fewer fatal accidents are being caused by drunk drivers. In 2013, the state recorded 321 drunk driving-related fatalities, which was a 38 percent decade-long drop. The decline is being attributed to tougher DUI laws, greater awareness among the public of the dangers of drunken driving, and increased enforcement efforts by police.
However, on the last point regarding enforcement there is considerable inconsistency. Lake County, for example, recorded more DUI arrests in 2013 than any other county, with 348 arrests. While that high arrest rate is partly because the county has a large population and police force, it is important to keep in mind that the much larger neighboring Cook County, with nearly twice as many officers, recorded fewer DUI arrests. As experts point out that the considerable variation in arrest rates simply shows that some counties are dedicating more resources to cracking down on drunk drivers than others, suggesting that many drunk drivers continue to be a menace to public safety without getting pulled over by police.
Motor vehicle accidents
A decline in traffic and DUI-related fatalities is certainly a good thing, but as the above article shows, drunk drivers continue to be a hazard on Illinois’ roads and highways. Drunk drivers don’t just put themselves in harm’s way, they also recklessly endanger the lives of everybody else on the road. Despite recent traffic safety improvements, over a third of traffic fatalities in Illinois are still caused by drunk drivers.
For those who have been the victims of such careless drivers, it is important to reach out to a personal injury attorney immediately. A dedicated attorney can help accident victims during the often daunting post-accident recovery phase, such as by providing assistance in claiming compensation against any potentially at-fault driver.