The Associated Press is reporting that Illinois traffic deaths are expected to top 1,000 this year for the first time since 2008, a consequence of more miles being driven, higher speeds being reported along rural highways, and an increase in younger drivers on the road.
More than 620 traffic fatalities have already occurred as of August 12, according to the State-Journal Register, a jump of 50 from the same time last year. It’s a trend that’s expected to continue through the end of the year.
The number of traffic deaths in 2015 (998) provides an ominous glimpse into the anticipated numbers of 2016 and it comes at a time when safety experts are beginning to look at several factors related to the rise.
Authorities say that most traffic-related fatalities have occurred along rural interstates where speed is the predominant factor (Illinois raised the speed limit on rural highways from 65 mph to 70 mph in 2014), but officials also say that distractions are becoming more frequent, including the use of cell phones and other handheld devices. That applies to pedestrians, as well.
“Most of our problems come down to a couple of things,” said Randy Blankenhorn, Secretary of the Illinois Department of Transportation, who spoke with the AP about this year’s expected rise in fatalities. “Avoid disruptions, whether it’s being on your cellphone or texting while you’re walking on busy streets. We see a lot of distractions, and speeding is always going to be an issue.”