Study: State falls short on teen driving

January 12, 2010 4:26:16 AM PST
A study that grades states on their highway improvements and vehicular safety gives Illinois the green light, except when it comes to teens. The report was put together by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a coalition of groups from the insurance industry, law enforcement and consumer organizations. It grades states on the passage of laws that address teen driving, distracted driving, drunk driving, seat belt use and motorcycle helmets.

The ratings follow the colors of a traffic light: green, amber or red. While most of the laws are rated 'green,' the teen driving law category is an 'amber,' according to the study.

The nation's leading highway safety officials gathered in Washington Monday to call attention to several deadly distractions that are putting everyone on our nation's roads at risk. The new report finds more than 1,000 fatalities on Illinois roads at a cost of nearly $9 billion dollars.

While road safety advocates call more crash prevention across the nation, Illinois gets good marks for its efforts like the texting ban.

Some local advocates say while there is reason to celebrate there is reason to keeping moving forward.

Americans enjoy four million miles of roadway. With the access there are accidents.

Some argue that tougher laws will save lives and money.

Advocates for highway and auto safety released their report, The 2010 Roadmap to State Highway Safety Laws, in Washington D.C. Monday. They rate Illinois number three in the nation for its number of laws regarding road safety.

State senator John Cullerton was invited to speak at the conference for his efforts to pass road safety legislation in Illinois.

"Illinois would like to lead the nation, we're very close to doing that, and it's work that advocates have done year in, year out, to point us in the right direction," said Sen. John Cullerton, 6th District (D).

Secretary of State Jesse White pushed for the graduated driver licensing programs for teens last year which increased driving time with parents, reduced nighttime driving and restricts the number of passengers in the teen's car. Secretary White says we are seeing the difference with a 52% reduction in teen driving deaths.

"We're proud what we've been able to do. There's a lot more to be done. Even though we've been able to enjoy a 52 percent reduction in loss of lives, we want it to go down to zero," said White.

Susan McKeigue, Mother Against Drunk Drivers' Illinois executive director, has pushed for tougher legislation against drunk drivers. She says now the laws need to be put to work to save lives. "In general, Illinois has good laws very good laws?as they compare to laws across the country we just need to enforce them in the courts at a better rate," said McKeigue.

To claim the top spot, advocates recommends the teen drivers start learning at 16. Currently, 15- year-olds can get a permit. Also, experts encourage reducing nighttime driving for teens even further to 10 p.m. on weekends too. Currently, it's 11 p.m. on weekends.

Advocates also recommend a motorcycle helmet law, but lobbyists have successfully persuaded the legislature against that type of a law.