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September 1, 2005

Cheryle Jackson 312/814.3158
Abby Ottenhoff 312/814.3158
Gerardo Cardenas 312/814.3158 
Rebecca Rausch 217/782.7355
Matt Vanover 217/836.2267 (IDOT)
Mike Claffey 312/814.3957 (IDOT) 

Gov. Blagojevich announces aggressive plan
to make Illinois roads safer

Comprehensive Highway Safety Plan is
a coordinated effort to save lives

Governor announces stepped up law enforcement
on Illinois roadways during Labor Day weekend

CHICAGO – On the day before the traditional start of the Labor Day weekend -- one of the heaviest travel holidays of the year -- Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced Illinois’ first-ever blueprint for how to save lives on Illinois roadways. The Illinois Comprehensive Highway Safety Plan (CHSP) will build on the Illinois’ safety successes in recent years in order to save lives. In 2004, Illinois posted the lowest number of traffic fatalities since 1943. The Illinois Department of Transportation reports that 86% of drivers observed were wearing their seatbelts in 2004, up ten percent from just two years ago.

Also today, Governor Blagojevich announced that Illinois is participating in the national You Drink & Drive. You Lose campaign, a 17-day enforcement period, which centers around Labor Day. Illinois will invest $950,000 in the public awareness campaign, coupled with more than 200 roadside safety checks by state and local police.

“We have brought together some the best and the brightest in the state in terms of traffic safety and law enforcement, and we asked them to put together an aggressive action plan to save lives on our highways,” said the Governor. “And that’s exactly what they did. We’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of us to reach our goal of reducing traffic fatalities to below 1,000 by the end of 2008, but we now have a road map for how to get there.”

The Governor also noted that at a time of skyrocketing fuel prices, fuel efficiency provides yet another reason for motorists to slow down. According to estimates by the U.S. EPA, driving at 65 mph, rather than 55 mph, increases fuel consumption by 15 to 20 percent. Driving at speeds in excess of the 65 mph speed limit wastes even more fuel.

The CHSP focuses on what are known as the four E’s of highway safety: Engineering, Enforcement, Education and Emergency Services and integrates these into all ten emphasis areas. The plan brings together safety organizations, and state and local agencies to build upon existing resources and deliver a more focused and coordinated safety effort.

The 10-targeted areas of emphasis are:

  • Alcohol and Other Impaired Driving.

  • Driver Behavior and Awareness.

  • Highway-Railroad Grade Crossings.

  • Information Systems for Decision Making.

  • Intersections.

  • Large Trucks.

  • Roadway Departure.

  • Safety Belts/Occupant Protection.

  • Vulnerable Users (pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists).

  • Work Zones.

For each of these areas, the plan reviews recently implemented tactics, lays out the primary challenges and offers a set of proposed new strategies. Implementation of aspects of the plan will begin immediately.

In the area of Alcohol and Other Impaired driving, for example, the plan calls for, among other things, focusing more resources on high-visibility enforcement actions; tougher enforcement of underage drinking laws; working with prosecutors and courts to reduce repeat DUI offenses; and support for Illinois State Police efforts to develop eye-scan technology to detect impaired drivers.

In March, Governor Blagojevich directed IDOT to develop the CHSP. In the months following, IDOT brought together public and private transportation professionals, state and local law enforcement officials and others to determine what needs to be included in the plan.

"The CHSP signed by Governor Blagojevich today gives all of us who have a vested interest in highway safety a clear vision of where we need to focus our resources in the coming months and years," stated Illinois State Police Director Larry G. Trent. "To save one life would make it a worthwhile endeavor, but to save over 300 lives would be heroic."

IDOT is charged with implementing the CHSP, which the new federal transportation bill requires states to have by October 1, 2007. Illinois is ahead of many other states with this effort and is being looked to as a model for its’ plan.

“Traffic deaths and injuries are both a major public health concern and an economic issue,” said IDOT Secretary Timothy W. Martin. “Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for children and young adults. On top of that, crashes cost the Illinois economy $10.5 billion a year, in terms of property damage, medical and legal costs, lost wages and the cost of emergency services.”

As he outlined Illinois’ long-term plan to reduce traffic related deaths on our highways, Governor Blagojevich also detailed enforcement activities and urged motorists to use caution as they drive during the Labor Day Holiday weekend. Illinois is participating in the national You Drink & Drive. You Lose campaign, a 17-day enforcement period, which centers around Labor Day. This is the second coordinated national crackdown effort since all 50 states have adopted the .08 Blood Alcohol Content law.

You Drink & Drive. You Lose combines focused law enforcement efforts with a coordinated education campaign. Nationally, $14 million will be spent on a public awareness campaign, the largest advertising campaign since You Drink & Drive. You Lose debuted in 1999. Here in Illinois, the $700,000 public awareness campaign will be backed up with more than 200 roadside safety checks by state and local police.

“This is traditionally the last chance of the year for families to get outside and enjoy summer activities together,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “We hope that people will hear our message to think safety first and to not drink and drive. If they don’t listen to that message, we hope they are caught in one of our roadside safety checks, before a tragedy occurs.”

The Blagojevich Administration has previously taken a number of steps designed to improve traffic safety prior to adopting the CHSP. These include:

  • A law that bans teen drivers from carrying more than one passenger for the first six months after receiving his or her license.

  • The primary seat belt enforcement law that allows officers to stop and ticket drivers for not wearing a seat belt.

  • A law that raised the age at which children must be in booster seats from 4 to 8.

  • A law that bans drivers under the age of 18 from using a cell phone.

  • A law requiring drivers under 18 to ensure teen passengers are properly buckled up in the front and back seats.

  • Laws that allow photo speed enforcement in work zones when workers are present and increase the fines for speeding in a work zone.

  • Tougher drunk driving penalties.

IDOT safety experts believe these measures are having an impact. Seat belt use has climbed steadily from 76 percent in 2003 to 83 percent in 2004, and 86 percent in 2005. Last year’s fatality numbers were 98 less than the previous year.

The plan was developed by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) in coordination with the Illinois State Police, Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, the Departments of Public Health and Central Management Services, the State Board of Education, and the Secretary of State. Participants in the creation of the CHSP will be reconvening in 2006 to evaluate the progress that is being made.

The full Illinois CHSP is available to the public on IDOT’s website.

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