Teen driving deaths decreasing statewide

By Nick Kovatch on October 26 at 4:15pm

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A new report from the Illinois Department of Transportation indicates teen driving deaths are down almost 60 percent in Illinois since 2007, but officials won’t be satisfied until there are zero fatalities.

Secretary of State Jesse White credits the drop to the state’s stronger Graduated Driver Licensing program, which took effect in 2008.

“It is saving lives,” White said. “While I am pleased that this law is working, I still believe that when one of our teens get killed on our roads, that’s one too many.”

According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, 58 teenagers died in car accidents in 2012, down from 144 in 2007.

Morgan County Sheriff Randy Duvendack says those numbers still hit close to home after four teenagers were killed in traffic accidents this year, but new state laws aim to prevent more tragedies.

“There’s limits on the number of passengers for new drivers,” says Duvendack. “Vehicles are safer now with the airbags that the cars are equipped with now. With restraint devices all teens have to be buckled in a seat belt in the front seat and back seat.”

Duvendack says the most common offenses among teen drivers are the same committed by other drivers; talking on the phone, texting, and speeding. But he says there’s one distraction almost exclusive to young drivers.

“When you get a car full of kids, and they may not be doing anything as far as alcohol or drugs, but a lot of times there’s just distractions going on in the car,” says Duvendack.

The decrease in teen driving deaths in Illinois is outpacing the decline nationally. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, driving fatalities among teenagers has declined by around 40 percent since 2007.