Traffic Fatalities Increase across State Cook County Mirrors Trend with 7.9% Climb in Accidents
Marshall, Jon, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Jon Marshall Daily Herald Staff Writer
Traffic fatalities are up 10 percent in the first half of 1996 in the Chicago area, contributing to a troubling four-year trend in Illinois.
The rise in traffic deaths the first half of this year follows similar statewide increases in 1993, 1994 and 1995. Before that, the number of fatalities declined four straight years.
"It's surprising to see these numbers going up," said Brian Sterling, spokesman for the AAA-Chicago Motor Club.
In the Chicago area, Lake County led the way with a 60 percent increase in fatalities while Cook, DuPage, Kane and McHenry counties also had increases the first half of this year. Only Will County saw a decrease.
Statewide, traffic deaths rose from 677 in the first six months of 1995 to 697 for the same period this year, a 3 percent jump, according to an Illinois Department of Transportation and Illinois State Police report.
No one knows for sure why these numbers are climbing, but police and traffic experts point to some possible causes:
- There are simply more vehicles traveling more miles than ever before, leading to more chances for accidents.
The number of miles vehicles traveled in the state rose 30 percent between 1985 and 1994, said Rick Meyers, chief of the transportation department's accident information section.
This trend is especially true in the suburbs, where more homes and more jobs mean more cars on the road, said Bill Cunningham, spokesman for the Cook County Sheriff's Office.
"It's obvious to anyone out there that there is more traffic," Cunningham said.
- The number of alcohol-related fatalities has started to rise nationally after eight straight years of going down, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Illinois has seen about an 8 percent rise the last two years in the number of people killed in alcohol-related fatalities, Meyers said.
Kane County Coroner Mary Lou Kearns said about half of the traffic victims she examines were killed in alcohol- or drug-related accidents.
- More people are dying in motorcycle crashes. Motorcycle fatalities in Illinois rose from 24 in the first half of last year to 31 the first six months of 1996, a 21 percent increase. …