Buckle up, slow down
State police urge drivers to take precautions against crashes

May 7, 2007

Fatalities resulting from vehicle crashes in Kane County were up 78 percent in 2006 from the previous year, and law enforcement officials want that trend to stop.

Illinois State Police District 2 officers working overtime this month will roam U.S. 20, Illinois 31, 47, 64, 38 and 72, and Randall Road in an effort to nab speeding drivers.

Six extra officers on special patrol also will look for seat belt violations and alcohol-related offenses.

Kane County statistics on traffic accidents and resulting fatalities are unacceptable, said Capt. Jeff Hedrich, District 2's commander. The county had 43 fatal crashes last year, up from 27 in 2005. Fifty people died in crashes in 2006, Hedrich said, up from 28 people in 2005.

"In Kane County, I attribute it actually just to the fact that the population is growing so rapidly," Hedrich said. "The roadway system can't keep up with the number of new residents."

To combat the increased traffic, Elgin-based District 2's 60 state police officers will use 300 hours of overtime pay provided through a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to execute the extra patrols.

Hedrich said he doesn't have in mind a target number of speeding tickets to issue during May, but that there is no shortage of traffic violators.

"There are always going to be speeders. There are always going to be drunk drivers," he said. "But every additional driver that can be convinced through education and enforcement to wear their seat belt will bring down the fatality rate."

Hedrich's district focuses most heavily on seat belt enforcement, he said. Of the 3,100 traffic tickets issued by state police in Kane County last year, 1,488 were for seat belt violations. In the first three months of 2007, more than half of the 400 traffic citations handed out by District 2 officers were related to seat belt use. Speeding tickets take a back seat to seat belt violations, Hedrich said.

Both violations can be costly. An average traffic ticket will cost a driver $75, Hedrich said. The penalties go up from there, depending on the offense, he said.

State troopers always are on the lookout for speeding drivers, said Delila Huerta, state police safety education officer.

But extra patrols are helpful in warm weather, she said, noting the absence of snowy, icy roads tends to bring out the compulsion to speed in many drivers.