Traffic fatalities on Illinois roads have been increasing this year, the figure so far is 937.
The Illinois Tollway alone expects 15.7 million vehicles on the tollway system during the Christmas and New Year holidays, through Jan. 2.
From 2009-2011, traffic fatalities were under 1,000, said Josh Kauffman, Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) spokesman, and are the lowest figures since 1921.
But the 813 fatalities already this year, figures could go beyond 1,000 based on the number of deaths that normally occur over the holiday period.
There are a number of reasons why fatalities could be increasing, which include the higher number of travelers, bad weather, distracted driving and impaired driving, Kauffman said. Speeding, texting while driving and lack of seat belt use can also be attributed to fatality increases.
IDOT has a few campaigns, like Click it or Ticket, aimed at trying to improve safety. The department also uses dynamic message boards on the roads to remind drivers about the danger of texting, driving and speeding. The message boards also update the number of fatalities, he said
“We want to continue to increase awareness of what the road fatalities number is at, to make people more aware,” Kauffman said.
IDOT’s latest campaign is Driving Zero Fatalities to Reality. Posting the number of fatalities on dynamic message boards is one of the efforts in the campaign, he said. The messages can translate to positive behavior and defensive driving, Kauffman said. There also is increased state and local police traffic enforcement being done this holiday season, he said.
Driving Zero Fatalities to Reality was successful during the Thanksgiving holiday, which saw a 63 percent decrease in deaths, according to IDOT. There were three motor vehicle fatalities and two crashes during the four-day holiday weekend, compared to eight fatalities and seven crashes during the same time period in 2011, the agency reported.
The agency’s fatalities statistics are complied by Illinois State police and ccurred on IDOT’s roads.
But the Tollway is also warning drivers to be alert on its roadways.
“Drivers should remain alert with increased holiday traffic and remember that texting or emailing while driving is illegal and deadly,” Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said.
In Illinois, data indicates that cell phone distractions, including texting, were the primary or secondary cause of 1,130 vehicle crashes in 2011, Lafleur said in a release.