593 killed on state's roads so far this year - New York News

593 killed on state's roads so far this year

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CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

For three hours on an August morning, Illinois State Police were out to prove a deadly trend on the North Side.

Between 7 and 10 a.m. on Aug. 6, both plain-clothes and uniformed troopers watched drivers text on the Kennedy Expressway near the Montrose and Addison ramps. One hundred citations were issued during the short enforcement, according to Illinois State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond.

"Many, many people are texting. We wanted to just get an idea ourselves of what is out there in terms of distracted driving, because we know what it can lead to," Bond said.

Nearly 600 people have been killed in traffic crashes throughout Illinois so far this year — on par with last year's deaths — with impaired and distracted driving still playing a large role in the state's fatalities, officials say.

As of Wednesday, 593 people have been killed in vehicle and motorcycle crashes, as well as crashes involving bicyclists and pedestrians, according to Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider.

Last year at this time, the state recorded 598 fatalities. And in 2011, that number was about 9 percent lower, with 488 deaths recorded, figures show.

So what do the numbers mean? Last year, a dangerous string of wrong-way and motorcycle crashes contributed heavily to the number of deaths. This year, there have been no wrong-way fatal crashes and motorcycle crashes are down by 6, from 86 to 80 statewide, officials say.

But Schneider says impaired driving, semi-truck crashes and distracted driving are the crux of this year's traffic fatalities.

January and March were especially deadly, with 79 and 97 killed statewide, respectively. Schneider said the spike in both months can be attributed to crashes in which more than one person died. Those crashes, she says, often mean high-speed crashes and crashes in which drivers and passengers aren't using seatbelts.

Of this year's 531 fatal crashes, 147 involved drivers and passengers who were not wearing seatbelts, state figures show.

The department has also seen a continuous trend of alcohol-related fatalities — roughly 35 to 40 percent of all fatalities in Illinois involve one ore more impaired drivers, Schneider said.

State Police say there have been 38 fatal crashes involving trucks on Illinois' expressways this year, a dangerous increase because multiple people are often killed in truck crashes.

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