Crash fatalities declined slightly on Illinois roads in the second half of 2012 after the state began running a tally of the deaths on highway message boards, in response to an increase in deadly accidents in the previous months, the state's transportation chief said Monday.
Still, 2012 was a very dangerous year on Illinois roads. Crash fatalities increased 4 percent, to 957 deaths in 887 separate accidents from 918 deaths in 835 separate accidents in 2011, according to data from the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Some 148 of the fatalities last year involved motorcyclists, marking a 15.5 percent increase over 2011, IDOT reported.
State Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider said she thinks the efforts using highway signs and social media to raise public awareness about carnage on the roads probably helped foster safer driving habits overall during the latter half of last year.
The electronic messages on highways and toll roads in the state listing roadway death numbers will be back in 2013, starting in the next couple of weeks, officials said. As of Monday, three people have died in three fatal crashes in the state this year, including one fatality in Chicago and one in McHenry County, IDOT said. The numbers are down from 15 fatalities last year statewide at this time.
Schneider stopped short of drawing a direct link between the electronic signs that were updated each day to display the climbing death toll and the slight slowing of the fatalities from early July through December.
"We have seen a seven-month trend of lower fatalities than what we had the prior year. … I can'’t point to that and say (the signs were) the reason. But obviously raising awareness helps us in that campaign," Schneider told a City Club of Chicago luncheon downtown.
Traffic fatalities increased 17 percent statewide from January through July last year, compared to the same period in 2011, the data show.
Since July 5, when the message boards started listing the death toll, through Dec. 31 there were 478 roadway deaths in 2012, compared to 500 over the same period in 2011, IDOT said.
However, the number of crash fatalities from Jan. 1 to July 5 totaled 479 in 2012, compared to 418 during the same time frame in 2011, the data show.
Of the 887 fatal crashes in the state last year, 130 were reported in Chicago, up from 109 in 2011, IDOT said. Cook County accounted for 243 of the fatal crashes last year, up from 213 in 2011.
In the collar counties, fatal crashes in DuPage County totaled 21 last year, down from 26 in 2011; Will County, 43 fatal crashes in 2012, up from 34 in 2011; Lake County, 27 fatal crashes in each of 2012 and 2011; McHenry County, 21 fatal crashes in 2012 compared to 14 in 2011; and Kane County, 25 fatal crashes in 2012 versus 24 in 2011, according to IDOT.