Illinois traffic fatalities are down, but experts debate why

Reasons for decline range from increased enforcement to economic concerns

As CBS Chicago recently reported, Illinoisans can take comfort in the fact that traffic fatalities in the state are on a long-term downward trend. In fact, recently released statistics show that 2014 was the safest year to drive in Illinois in nearly a century, with fatal car accidents at a record low. Experts are debating the causes of the decline, with some claiming it is due to increased law enforcement, especially against drunk drivers, while others say it may be due to less controllable factors, such as the weather and even the Great Recession.

Fatalities falling

The Illinois Department of Transportation says there were 910 traffic deaths in the state last year, which is the lowest level officials have seen since 1921. Furthermore, officials say 2014 was the sixth consecutive year that fatalities stayed below the 1,000 mark. The decline is dramatic, especially considering that just ten years ago the fatality rate was 1,355.

Even in the short term, 2014 was an exceptionally safe year considering there were 991 traffic deaths in 2013. Experts say the short-term decline was likely due to bad winter weather last year. While it may sound counter-intuitive to credit bad weather for making the roads safer, officials believe the poor winter conditions encouraged people to stay off the roads, thus leading to a decrease in fatal accidents.

Long-term decline

Given that traffic fatalities have been declining consistently over the long term, however, there must be more to those declines than occasional bad weather. One possible explanation is increased DUI enforcement. As the News Tribune recently reported, as DUI arrests have increased throughout Illinois, fatal accidents caused by drunk driving have declined. With fewer drunk drivers, there are also fewer overall accidents.

However, some analysts say law enforcement is only part of the story. Perhaps surprisingly, the Great Recession may also help explain the decrease in DUI-related accidents. With more people worried about their economic prospects, their taste for risk taking and potentially costly tickets has also waned. Analysts say the recession has led to more people spending less on drinks, fewer people going out, and more drivers generally being careful to avoid the economic costs of a DUI arrest.

Car accident representation

While fatal accidents may be down across the state, risks on the road still abound. Just a single impaired or distracted driver, for example, can cause a serious accident, leading to pain and heartache for the friends and loved ones of victims.

Such victims should know that they have help on hand. A personal injury attorney can assist accident victims with the often confusing legal implications of a crash and may be able to assist them in recovering compensation to help them deal with the fallout of a serious accident.