LISLE, Ill. — With more Illinoisans staying home as a result of the pandemic, state officials say fatal crashes are on the rise, with 2020 being the deadliest on Illinois roadways in 13 years.
Besides speed, studies have shown an increase in alcohol, marijuana and opioids contributed to the rise in driving-related fatalities. Most of the victims who died were between the ages of 18-34.
Two fatal crashes have occurred in as many days. One person was killed and two people were hurt in a fiery road crash on the Reagan Memorial Tollway Thursday morning. A woman speeding near 85th and South Pulaski resulted in a double fatal crash that claimed the life of an 86-year-old man Wednesday night. Five others were injured.
“They’re very violent crashes,” said Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel. “When you look at the photos and videos, clearly speed played a major role in the fatality.”
Weitzel predicts the pandemic is playing a role.
“Law enforcement agencies in Cook County, the state of Illinois and nationwide were faced with giving their officers these directives to have less contact with the public that included reducing traffic enforcement,” he said.
According to new numbers released by the National Safety Council, 42,000 people were killed in traffic crashes in 2020 – an 8% increase from 2019. In Illinois, more than 1,100 people were killed in traffic collisions, a 16% increase.
Chicago witnessed a far more dramatic spike, with 139 people killed, a 45% rise from 2019.
“If you’re driving past the speed limit, going 80 miles per hour, the likelihood of being able to brake before impact is down and that accident is going to that more severe,” said Molly Hart, a AAA spokesperson.
In recent crash tests conducted by AAA, any impact at 56 miles per hour or higher can have deadly results.
“We need to think of the other motorists,” Hart said. “We need to follow the speed limits. There could be horrible outcomes and we don’t want to see that.”