Seat belt use in Illinois is as high as it has ever been, yet fatalities on the roads are up. Seat belt use for front-seat drivers and passengers was 93.6 percent, as measured in June, according to federal data released Friday – above the national average of 84 percent, and above last year’s mark of 92.9 percent. Yet fatalities from crashes are up 8 percent this year vs. the same time last year, 620 vs. 571, as of last week.
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It’s hard to figure, says Pat O’Brien, manager of safety programs for IDOT. “It’s been one of those years where the fatalities have spiked somewhat, and we don’t like to see that. That’s something that we’ve kind of worn on our sleeve too. We want to make sure that people know that fatalities are up and they know to be careful out there,” he said. O’Brien says deaths might be up because the weather has been warm this year, and people drive more when it’s warm, and they ride motorcycles more when it’s warm. In the bigger picture, road deaths have been trending downward, with figures in recent years lower than they were in the early 1920s.