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Governor strengthens traffic safety laws in time for summer travel

Press Release - Thursday, July 03, 2003

Illinois eligible for millions in federal funds


ITASCA, ILL. - Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today signed into law three new traffic safety bills, which - according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) - will make Illinois the first state in the nation to enact all three provisions in the same year.  With motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death up to 37 years of age in Illinois, the new laws will help to ensure the safety of Illinois families as they drive to and from work, school, and home.


Senate Bill 50 allows law enforcement officers to stop and ticket drivers for not wearing seat belts; Senate Bill 52 increases the age of children to be restrained in booster seats from 4 to 8; and Senate Bill 58 prohibits teen drivers from carrying more than one other teenage passenger in the car for the first six months after receiving his or her license.


The seat belt law went into effect upon the governor's signature, which is in time for the start of the summer holiday traveling season.


The governor signed the legislation with hundreds of families and law enforcement officials at the National Safety Council's (NSC) All-American Cookout. At the event, the Illinois State Police demonstrated the importance of seat belt safety by simulating an accident with unrestrained and restrained dummies.  The Hoffman Estates Police Department held special demonstrations on how to properly install a car seat. 


"There is nothing more important than the safety of our families and together we have to do all that we can to protect them," Blagojevich said.  "The legislation that I am signing today no longer tolerates not wearing a seat belt and not properly securing our young children while driving.  These three new laws will help to prevent an estimated 166 deaths and another 4,394 injuries caused by car accidents resulting in a total economic savings of $307 million."


During the bill signing ceremony, the NTSB Chairman Ellen Engleman presented awards to the governor and bill sponsor state Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago. The NSC also presented awards to state Sen. Barack Obama, D-Chicago; state Reps. Mark Beaubien, R-Wauconda; Timothy Schmitz, R-Geneva; and Randall Hultgren, R-Wheaton; and the State Fraternal Order of Police, Illinois State Police and the Sheriff's Association, the Illinois Association of Police Chiefs, for committing to traffic safety.  Blagojevich also thanked Senate sponsors state Sens. Iris Martinez, D-Chicago; Donne Trotter, D-Chicago; Louis Viverito, D-Burbank; and Antonio Munoz, D-Chicago.


Also by passing the seat belt legislation, Illinois would become eligible to receive approximately $31 million dollars from the federal government. "When the SAFETEA (Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003) reauthorization bill is enacted, Illinois would be able to use the funding for traffic safety related projects," said National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Regional Administrator Donald J. McNamara.


SENATE BILL 50: Primary Seat belt Legislation


The new law changes the Illinois Vehicle Code's seat belt law from a "secondary" violation to a "primary" violation. Formerly, law enforcement officials could not stop a motor vehicle solely on the basis of a violation of the seat belt law. This law removes that exception, enabling law enforcement officials to stop vehicles solely on the basis of seat belt violations. The law provides that a law enforcement officer may not search or inspect a motor vehicle, its contents, the driver or a passenger solely because of a violation of this law. The law took effect immediately upon signing by the governor. Illinois is the first state this year to enact primary safety belt legislation and the 19th state across the country.


In spite of successful education and enforcement programs, such as Illinois' Click It or Ticket campaign, nearly 25 percent of motor vehicle occupants in Illinois still do not use their seat belts. The Illinois Department of Transportation estimates that 141 lives will be saved each year in Illinois as a result of this law.


SENATE BILL 52: Booster Seat Legislation


This new law amends the Child Passenger Protection Act to provide that whenever a child under 8 years of age is driven, the driver is responsible for properly securing the child in an appropriate child restraint system, such as a booster seat. Previously, the law was directed to children under 4- years-of-age. The law also provides that every person, when transporting a child 8-years-of-age or older, but under the age of 16, is responsible for properly securing that child in seat belts.


The National Safety Council estimates that the lives of 15 children will be saved each year in Illinois as a result of this law. The Itasca-based organization also cites traffic crashes as the
leading cause of death for children. Injuries and deaths for children 4- to 8-years of age remain high because they are either unrestrained or restrained in systems not appropriate for their age. Of the 117 children who died in motor vehicles from 1994 to 2001 in Illinois, 78 percent were unrestrained or in an adult seat belt according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.


Illinois is the 15th state to pass a booster law. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have passed booster seat legislation and at least seven other states are considering similar proposals.


SENATE BILL 58: Teen Passenger Restriction Legislation


This new law provides that a person under the age of 18, who receives a graduated driver's license, may not drive with more than one person in the vehicle who is under the age of 20 during the first six months of their license or until the person reaches the age of 18, whichever occurs sooner unless an adult is present. Exceptions to this passenger restriction are provided for siblings, stepsiblings, children and stepchildren of the driver.


The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that the lives of 10 teens will be saved each year in Illinois as a result of this law. According to the National Highway and Traffic Administration, data has shown that each additional teen passenger increases crash risks by 50 percent.


The NSC also cites traffic crashes as the leading cause of death among teenagers today, accounting for 40 percent of all deaths among 15- to 20-year-olds.  In Illinois, teenage drivers are involved in a substantially higher proportion of traffic deaths than the national average of 14 percent. In 2001, 341 people died in highway crashes involving teen drivers. That means while teen drivers account for no more than 7.3 percent of licensed drivers, they were involved in 24 percent of the total Illinois highway deaths.


Currently, 20 other states and the District of Columbia have enacted passenger restrictions as part of their graduated drivers licensing systems.



An estimated 37.4 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home during the July 4th holiday weekend according to AAA Chicago - up from last year's projected total of 36.8 million drivers. The American Automobile Association also notes that the July 4th holiday kicks off the summer driving season with 22 percent driving towards towns and rural areas.


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