Are Rising Illinois Traffic Fatalities A Cause for Concern?

Illinois has its eye on fatal traffic crashes. State and local police have worked to reduce fatalities by cracking down on common traffic violations such as speeding, drunk driving and failing to use seat belts. Lawmakers have tightened driving safety laws, including a new ban on using hand-held mobile devices that took effect Jan. 1. Drivers on highways see billboards listing the number of fatal traffic accidents so far each year.

Despite all these actions, the number on the traffic fatality billboards ticked higher last year. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), about 1,000 people died in fatal crashes in 2013. In 2012 there were 956 fatalities. The numbers are provisional and could change when final traffic statistics are released later this year. It's the second straight year traffic fatalities rose in Illinois.

The increase comes at a time when traffic fatalities nationwide are nearing historic lows. Early estimates show that traffic fatalities in some states have fallen to levels seen in the 1930s or 1940s. But Illinois' 2013 numbers may not be a major cause for concern - yet. A spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association told the Chicago Tribune that the numbers need to be looked at over a longer period of time. "You don't want to make big conclusions on one year's worth of data," he told the newspaper.

Numbers Still Near Historic Lows

In Illinois, the number of people killed in car accidents has been near historic lows in recent years, although the number of fatalities has spiked in some years. But in 2008, 1,043 people were killed in Illinois vehicle crashes, higher than in 2013. In 2009, the number dropped to 911.

Nine and 10 years ago, traffic fatality statistics were significantly higher than in the past five years. In 2003, there were 1,454 fatalities and in 2004, there were 1,355 fatalities - both higher than the state's provisional estimate for 2013.

In fact, traffic fatalities for the last 10 years have been the lowest in decades. During the 1990s, annual fatalities ranged between 1,382 and 1,589. During the 1980s, fatalities per year ranged from 1,994 to 1,778. In the 1970s, fatalities ranged between 2,007 and 2,400. Decade by decade, Illinois traffic fatalities have declined, though not always dropping every year.

Locally, DuPage, Will and Kane counties had an increased number of fatalities in 2013. In Cook County, the number of fatalities actually fell from 2012 to 2013.

Cook County

2013: 257 fatalities

2012: 270 fatalities

2011: 234 fatalities

2010: 236 fatalities

2009: 264 fatalities


DuPage County

2013: 29 fatalities

2012: 21 fatalities

2011: 27 fatalities

2010: 38 fatalities

2009: 23 fatalities


Kane County

2013: 30 fatalities

2012: 23 fatalities

2011: 24 fatalities

2010: 21 fatalities

2009: 30 fatalities


Will County

2013: 48 fatalities

2012: 44 fatalities

2011: 38 fatalities

2010: 48 fatalities

2009: 37 fatalities


Will Numbers Continue To Rise?

Although traffic fatalities remain near historic lows even with rises in recent years, continued rises - or additional information about increases in 2013 - may be a cause for concern. Motor vehicle accidents cause millions of dollars of damage every year. They cause untold pain and suffering among injury victims and family members and result in thousands of preventable deaths every year. While Illinois and the U.S. have achieved significant reductions in fatal accidents, the numbers are of no comfort to family members who grieve for those who die in accidents each year.