CHICAGO- Joined by safety groups and the state’s top law enforcement and transportation officials, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich called on Illinois House members to put the safety of motorists first and sustain his veto of Senate Bill 540. The legislation would increase the speed limit for trucks to 65 mph – a change that highway safety groups warn would lead to more fatalities. The veto was overridden by the Senate last week and is scheduled for a vote in the House this week.
The Governor has repeatedly vetoed legislation that would raise the speed limit for trucks to 65 miles per hour for the safety of everyone who travels on the state’s roads. During Gov. Blagojevich's administration fatalities on state roads have dropped by 200 a year to the lowest levels since 1924.
“Vetoing this legislation was not a tough call. The trucking industry’s desire to allow trucks to move their cargo faster should never trump the safety of other drivers on our highways,” said Governor Blagojevich. “When trucks drive at higher speeds, it takes them more time to stop, and increases the risks to everyone on the road. Other states that have raised the speed limit for trucks have all seen traffic fatalities rise. Experts estimate Illinois could see more than 100 more deaths on our highways every year if trucks are allowed to drive faster - we can’t let that happen.”
The Governor’s stand has been endorsed by State Senator John Cullerton (D-Chicago), the Legislature’s leading traffic safety proponent, and an array of traffic safety and state agencies, including AAA, the National Safety Council, the Illinois State Police, the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois Tollway. The Governor’s position has also been supported by the editorial pages of major newspapers in the region, including: the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Daily Southtown, Springfield Journal-Register, Northwest Herald and the Daily Illini.
“I strongly urge my colleagues in the Legislature to consider the safety of the millions of motorists who drive on Illinois’ highways and to vote in favor of sustaining the Governor’s veto of SB 540,” said Sen. Cullerton. “The Legislature and Gov. Blagojevich have collaborated in recent years to make major progress in terms of making our roads safer and saving lives. We should not jeopardize that progress by raising the speed limit for trucks. This will only take us backwards and put the lives of families at risk.”
“AAA Chicago strongly supports the Governor’s veto of Senate Bill 540 and believes that overriding the veto would translate into lost lives on Illinois’ roadways,” said Brad Roeber, president of AAA Chicago. “Illinois has made significant strides in improving roadway safety and overriding this veto and allowing trucks to travel at faster speeds would be a significant step backward.”
“As a leader in providing solutions for reducing unintentional deaths and disabling injuries, the National Safety Council fully supports the Governor’s goal to ensure safety on Illinois highways by maintaining the current speed limit for trucks,” said Alan McMillan, President of the National Safety Council. “The research is clear: when thousands of trucks increase their speed, collisions, serious injuries and fatalities also increase substantially.”
According to AAA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), when tractor-trailer trucks travel at speed rates of 55 mph or higher, it significantly increases the likelihood the truck will either jackknife or rollover. The vast majority of persons killed in crashes involving trucks are occupants of passenger vehicles, not trucks.
Along with an overall reduction in roadway fatalities in 2006 in Illinois, IDOT’s Division of Traffic Safety reported a sharp drop in fatalities caused by large trucks last year, from 191 in 2005 to 159 in 2006.
Illinois has made steady progress in reducing the traffic fatalities since the Governor signed the primary safety belt enforcement law in 2003. There were 1,454 total fatalities in 2003 and by 2006 the number of fatalities in Illinois was down to 1,254, the lowest number of fatalities since 1924, when there were 1,065.
Missouri, Iowa and Kansas all allow tractor-trailer trucks to travel at the same rate as passenger vehicles. From 1995 to 2001, involvement of large trucks in fatal crashes increased by 27 percent. Indiana, Ohio and Michigan limit truck highway speeds at levels below that of passenger vehicles. From 1995 to 2001 involvement of large trucks in fatal crashes decreased by 15 percent, according to NHTSA and AAA statistics.
In 1996, the year after Missouri increased the speed limit for trucks, it recorded 70 more fatalities caused by large trucks, increasing from 97 to 167. If Illinois had a corresponding 72 percent increase as Missouri did, that could translate to 115 more fatalities in one year.
“The safety of our roadways is the number one priority for the Illinois Department of Transportation,” said IDOT Secretary Milton R. Sees. “Under the leadership of Gov. Blagojevch, Illinois has seen a record drop in traffic fatalities. We want to build on that progress and that is why IDOT strongly supports the Governor’s veto of SB 540. There is a mountain of evidence that suggests raising the speed limit for trucks to 65 mph will make our roads more dangerous and cause more fatalities. Seatbelts and air bags will offer little protection to passengers in a car when a speeding semi-truck slams into it.”
“While the Governor’s commitment to retaining the 55 mph speed limit for large trucks may be a small act in comparison to the rest of his responsibilities; it is one that will have impact of major proportion and will go a long way to help us keep millions of drivers safe each day on the Illinois Tollway and other state roads,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Brian McPartlin.
“An 80,000 pound truck requires more distance and time than most other vehicles to reduce speed and stop. All too often, these heavy trucks are involved in serious or fatal crashes because they are unable to reduce their speed as quickly as other motorists,” said Illinois State Police Director Larry G. Trent. “The ISP has worked very hard to make Illinois’ highways safer. Consequently, during 2006, we witnessed the lowest fatality rate in more than 82 years. It would clearly be counterproductive to our efforts at this point to raise the speed limit on trucks and place our citizens in jeopardy. We appreciate the Governor’s support in our ongoing efforts to safeguard the motoring public.”
Saving lives and improving the safety of Illinois’s roadways has been a top priority for the Blagojevich administration.
In August, the Governor signed into law Secretary of State Jesse White’s Teen Driving Bill, which gives Illinois some of the strictest laws in the nation for teen drivers – including, as of Jan. 1, tripling the time for driving with a learners permit from three to nine months.
Other traffic safety measures signed into law by the Governor include:
- A law that doubles the amount of time a teen must have behind the wheel before receiving their license;
- A law that bans cell phone use by teen drivers with a driving permit or a graduated license who are under 19;
- Requiring drivers under 18 to make sure that their teen passengers are buckled properly in the front and back seats;
- A law that rose the age at which children must be in booster seats from 4 to 8.
- Increased penalties for drivers over the age of 21 who transport a child under the age of 16 while impaired;
- Chemical testing required for those arrested for hit-and-run;
- Harsher sentencing for causing a death while driving impaired; and
- Tougher penalties for driving on a DUI-revoked license.