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Chicago aims to eliminate car accident deaths

Even with the many recent advances in safety technology, a car accident can still be fatal. These accidents are devastating to the families and to the community as a whole.

Chicago is taking steps to bring an end to fatal accidents. This may seem like a lofty idea, but it is desperately needed. In 2012, there were 1,000 accident fatalities in Illinois. While achieving zero fatalities may seem impossible, it is worth noting that another form of transportation has already achieved this goal. There has not been a single commercial aircraft fatality in the US in four years, since the crash of a Colgan Air Jet in Boston in 2009.

Illinois has joined 30 other states in implementing a program designed at eliminating auto accident fatalities. Research shows that since Utah and Idaho implemented their policies, they have had a statistically significant lower number of fatalities.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have found that the most effective programs are those that incorporate the "four E's" of safety: enforcement, education, engineering, and emergency services. It is important to raise the public's awareness of unsafe driving habits, such as drinking and driving. States have also had success changing and redesigning roads in areas where the most accidents occur, or adding a strong police presence in those trouble spots.

These programs were originally started in Sweden, where researchers concluded that the only morally acceptable number of deaths in auto accidents is zero. The Illinois Department of Transportation is working against some public skepticism. The public is doubtful that this plan will work, and thinks that the goal should be more attainable, like keeping the number of fatalities under 1,000 per year.

Illinois has been able to halve traffic fatalities since the 1960s and 70s. During that time, traffic deaths exceeded 2,000 deaths per year. Since that time, there have been many technological updates to cars, such as anti-lock brakes, airbags, and life-saving crunch zones. Also, since that time, more people have begun wearing seatbelts when driving.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "States driven toward 'zero death' crash goal," Jon Hilkevitch, Feb. 18, 2013

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