Indiana and Illinois in 2017 Highway Safety Report: How Dangerous Is It to Drive Here?


Indiana and Illinois in 2017 Highway Safety Report: How Dangerous Is It to Drive Here?

In our last post, we discussed the recently released 14th edition of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety’s report, entitled “Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws.”  National safety experts authored the 2017 Report.

They include the executive director of the American Public Health Association; the national president of Mothers against Drunk Driving (MADD); and the former Administrator of the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Essentially, this is a respected report card that grades each state (and the District of Columbia) on how dangerous their roadways are for motor vehicle accidents.  It also provides analysis on current state safety laws and recommends changes to be made for safer driving and less traffic fatalities.

Of course, for those of us who live and work here in Indiana and Illinois, the real question is how did our part of the country fare in this Highway Safety Report?  How dangerous is it to drive in Indiana and Illinois, according to the experts?

Illinois’ Report Card in the 2017 Highway Safety Report

In 2015, Illinois had 998 traffic fatalities, with a 10-Year Fatality Total of 11,532 deaths.  The annual economic cost to the State of Illinois due to motor vehicle accidents is $10.885 Billion. Report page  44.

Illinois received an overall “yellow” rating from the experts.  It was not among the most dangerous states listed – but it failed to get a “green” rating, either, as one of the safest.  There were concerns over dangerous conditions in Illinois. 

These include:

1. Illinois – Danger to Children, Especially Infants and Toddlers

Illinois received a “red” rating (for highest danger) in the area of Child Passenger Safety.  Report, page 21.

NHTSA research shows that safety seats for young children save lives.  Specifically, death rates fall by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers when the children are protected by safety seats as occupants in passenger cars at the time of the crash.  These kinds of precautions change as the child grows, from a rear-facing safety seat, to a forward-facing harness seat, to booster seats with standard seat belts.

Illinois does not require that children be protected as passengers in booster seats with seat belts until they are at least eight (8) years old and at least 57 inches tall.  Illinois does have a booster seat law, but it is insufficient, leaving the child in danger, according to the report.  Report, page 24.

Illinois likewise does not mandate that children be placed into child restraint safety seats that are rear facing until age two years; nor does Illinois require any kind of forward facing harness and tether seat for children that out-grow their rear-facing safety seat.

2.  Recommended Legislation for Illinois

The following laws are recommended to the State of Illinois to make roads safer and reduce the number of serious and fatal motor vehicle accidents (Report page  44):

  1. All-Rider Motorcycle Helmet Law
  2. Booster Seat Law Up to Age 8 and 57 Inches
  3. Graduated Drivers’ License (GDL) – Minimum Age 16 for Learner’s Permit
  4. GDL – Stronger Nighttime Restriction
  5. GDL – Stronger Passenger Restriction
  6. GDL – Age 18 for Unrestricted License

Indiana’s Report Card in the 2017 Highway Safety Report

In 2015, Indiana had 821 traffic fatalities, with a 10-Year Fatality Total of 8,876 deaths.  The annual economic cost to the State of Indiana due to motor vehicle accidents is $6.375 Billion. Report page  45.

Indiana also got an overall “yellow” rating in the latest safety report.  However, in specific areas of concern, Indiana failed to provide its citizens with an acceptable level of safety. 

In these areas, Indiana received a “red” rating for highest danger.  Dangers for Indiana drivers include:

1. Indiana – Failure to Provide Child Passenger Safety

Indiana also received a “red” rating (for highest danger) in the area of Child Passenger Safety.  Report, page 21.

Placing a child into a booster seat and securing them into that booster seat with a seat belt has been shown to protect that child from being hurt in a motor vehicle accident by 59%, according to Partners for Child Passenger Safety.

Indiana does not have a law that forces parents to buckle kids into passenger seat belts with a booster seat until that child is at least 57 inches tall and at least eight years old.  (This is the optimal booster seat law recommended by the experts in their report.)

While Indiana does have a booster seat law, it leaves too many little Hoosiers in danger, according to the report.  Report, page 24.

2. Indiana – Failure to Have Optimal Impaired Driving Laws

Indiana was found to fail in keeping the state roads safe from impaired driving with laws mandating things like ignition interlock devices; child endangerment laws; and open container laws.  Report, page 29.

Concerns include not only drunk driving but the growing number of drivers who may be impaired by marijuana and its tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) effect upon the human body.  The experts found that Hoosiers are not protected by stringent anti-drunk driving (and impaired driving) statutes.

3.  Recommended Legislation for Indiana

The following laws are recommended to the State of Indiana to make roads safer and reduce the number of serious and fatal motor vehicle accidents (Report page  45):

  1. All-Rider Motorcycle Helmet Law
  2. Booster Seat Law Up to Age 8 and 57 Inches
  3. Graduated Drivers’ License (GDL) – Minimum Age 16 for Learner’s Permit
  4. GDL – Stronger Nighttime Restriction
  5. GDL – Age 18 for Unrestricted License
  6. Ignition Interlock Law for All Offenders.

Will New Laws Be Passed in Indiana and Illinois in Response to This Warning from Safety Experts?

Of course, traffic laws do not guarantee that drivers will be safe from becoming victims of a serious motor vehicle accident.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful if it were true?

However, the reality is there are grave dangers facing both Indiana and Illinois drivers that new legislation might lessen, if not alleviate.  As the president of the AHAS states:

“This public health crisis demands legislative action and not legislative amnesia about what works and what is needed.”

Personal injury and wrongful death claims exist to provide justice to those who have been seriously hurt or killed in a motor vehicle accident.  Legislation to stop these tragedies from happening in the first place is something that everyone can support.

Until new laws are on the books here in Illinois and Indiana, increased public awareness of these risks and dangers is very important.  We all need to know about the real danger of a fatal traffic accident in our community, especially in these known risk areas.  We need to educate our loved ones, as well, on these known driving dangers identified by safety experts here in our area.  Let’s be careful out there!

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