Highway crashes in Winnebago County follow national trends

Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 7:35 PM CST
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WINNEBAGO COUNTY, Ill. (WIFR) - An national organization says it’s time for rule changes on Illinois highways, but local law enforcement thinks there’s a different solution. Illinois and Winnebago County both followed the nationwide trend of increased highway crashes in 2021.

“Speeding and reckless driving likely increased with fewer consequences during the pandemic and has continued even as more cars are on the road,” says Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) Spokesperson Maria Castaneda. “In Illinois, 1 death on our streets is too many.”

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety rates each state annually based on a variety of data, including DUIs, crashes and the implementation of 16 laws they say are vital to safety. No state has all 16 laws in place. Illinois received a yellow rating for 2021, meaning there’s room for improvement. While the organization says these laws are a potential solution, local law enforcement says change needs to come on a much smaller level, from drivers.

“Following etiquette, and be polite,” says Sheriff Gary Caruana of Winnebago County. “Just because we’re in these vehicles and we don’t know the other person, we take on these alter egos like we’re, I don’t know, we’re gonna conquer that road. And this is where the problem happens.”

“Enacting state traffic safety law is, it tends to be a heavy lift for sure,” explains Executive Director Tracy Gill of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “And when we, you know, support these measures, our goal is of course, to get the law across the finish line, but it’s also an opportunity for us to educate.”

While official data from 2021 hasn’t yet been released, advocates, IDOT and the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office say they all saw the spike.

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