Why bad weather and the economy may lead to fewer road deaths

Statistics show that 2014 was one of the safest years ever for Illinois drivers

Winter storms and the Great Recession aren't usually two topics that have much good associated with them, but, according to the News Tribune, they may have at least one positive side effect: fewer fatal car crashes. Recently released figures by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) shows that 2014 was one of the safest years for drivers on record. Fatal car accidents last year declined dramatically and analysts say the decline may be because of bad winter weather in 2014 along with the lingering effects of the Great Recession.

Safest year since 1921

IDOT says that the number of traffic fatalities last year reached 910, which was the lowest number recorded since 1921 and was the sixth year in a row that there were fewer than 1,000 traffic deaths in the state, according to CBS Chicago.

The fact that traffic deaths have been declining fairly consistently in recent years suggests a long-term downward trend. In 1994, for example, Illinois saw 1,554 traffic deaths, while in 2004 that figure had dropped to 1,335 and has kept dropping since then.

Why the decline?

In terms of year-on-year decline, 2014 saw 81 fewer traffic deaths than in 2013, when 991 people died on Illinois' roads and highways. That immediate decline is believed to largely be linked to adverse winter conditions in 2014. Although winter driving is notoriously treacherous, it also keeps people off the roads in the first place. As a result, fatal accidents declined because more people were choosing to stay home during the harsh weather.

Economic factors may be behind the more long-term decline, however. Police have noted a marked decline in fatal DUI-related accidents in recent years, which analysts say may be due to economic constraints combined with increased police enforcement. During the Great Recession people tended to be more careful to avoid unnecessary expenses, which includes hefty fines for being cited for drunk driving. Additionally, people are more likely to drink at home rather than go out to party as a result of having to more carefully watch how they spend their money.

Dangers still present

While a decline in traffic deaths is always a good thing, authorities are also quick to note that not all of the news is good. Distracted driving, especially due to cellphone use behind the wheel, is becoming a growing danger in Illinois, as it is across the rest of the country. As such, drivers should always remain vigilant and be on the lookout for reckless or negligent drivers.

For those who have been the victim of another driver's careless behavior, help is at hand. A personal injury attorney can assist accident victims through their post-accident recovery phase, including by assisting them with the possibility of claiming compensation that can be used to cover medical and other crash-related expenses.