|SPRINGFIELD, IL -- Illinois State Police Director Terrance W. Gainer today announced that his agency would follow a zero tolerance policy for seat belt violations. "Troopers won’t give any more written or oral warnings if you violate the seat belt law," Gainer said. "If you’re pulled over for a traffic offense and you’re not buckled up, you’ll get a citation."|
The last statewide survey conducted by the Illinois Department of Transportation indicated approximately 64 percent compliance with the state seat belt law. Projections from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicate that 288 lives could be saved in Illinois each year if compliance by drivers and passengers increased to 90 percent. That level of compliance would also prevent more than 9,700 serious injuries and produce savings of more than $550 million annually.
Gainer said the tragedy caused by failure to comply with seat belt laws was given dramatic force to him and his command officers at their meeting in Springfield today.
They listened as Carolyn Hanig, a Life-Flight nurse from Oklahoma, related that she flew to the scene of a serious traffic accident to find a young man dead at the scene. It was her son. He had not been wearing a seat belt. Ms. Hanig has taken a leave of absence from her position to try to convince police officials, lawmakers and others of the need for stricter seat belt law enforcement.
"You could not listen to Ms. Hanig without deepening your commitment to enforce lifesaving laws," Gainer said. "As police officers," Gainer said, "we know the scope of our authority. Today, we learned the breadth of our responsibility."
Gainer said his stricter policy would make enforcement of the law more consistent and regular within Illinois. At present, police officers can issue a citation for no seat belts only if the motorist has been pulled over for another violation. Enforcement of seat belt laws vary widely around the state. "Until Illinois allows primary enforcement of seat belt laws, this policy change will help standardize enforcement." The law establishing a graduated licensing system for teenage drivers has a zero tolerance policy for seat belt use, Gainer pointed out.
Last year, ISP troopers wrote 42,922 citations for all violations of safety belt laws. Officers issued 53,989 written warnings. No statistics are kept for oral warnings. "Those numbers are going to change dramatically," Gainer said. "If we can save more lives through stricter enforcement of our seat belt laws, then it’s clear that’s the course we must take."