Highway fatalities are up this year in Illinois compared to last year. So far this year, there have been 355 deaths on the road, compared to 288 at this time last year. The reason is elusive. “Unfortunately fatal crashes are on the rise in 2012, despite the increase in the number of motorists wearing seat belts,” said Lt. Paul Riggio of the State Police.
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Seat belt compliance is 93 percent, which is an all-time high, and growing seat belt use has been considered a factor in the long-term trend of declining highway deaths. IDOT chief of staff Marva Boyd suspects the increase this year is due to distracted driving, specifically phone use and texting while driving, though an incident-by-incident analysis hasn’t yet been performed to substantiate that. Nevertheless, “We are not taking our driving responsibilities seriously enough,” she said. This weekend, there will be stepped-up police enforcement of speeding, DUI, seat belt and distracted driving laws involving state police and local departments.