Traffic Safety

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Traffic Safety Information

Imagine that you are sitting at home watching the nightly news when the newscaster reports that an airplane has just crashed killing all 117 people that were aboard. You shake you head and think, "How terrible! I hope they find out what caused it to crash." The next night you are sitting in your favorite chair again watching the news when you hear that another plane has crashed and another 117 people were senselessly killed. Now your concern begins to show as well as some fear and some anger. "How could that happen two nights in a row?" you wonder. You hope that the proper authorities get right on it and find out why these planes are crashing and innocent people are being killed.

The next night you hear another report of a plane crash and again 117 people were killed. Now you begin to feel a rage and you think, "Why don't they do something to stop this?" In only 3, days 351 people have lost their lives. The next night it happens again, and the next, and the next. Each day 117 people die and now the nation demands that something be done to stop the killing.

This sounds like something that would never happen right? Wrong! This happens each day of the year - year in and year out. Not one day passes without this happening. It doesn't happen with plane crashes it happens each day on the highways of our nation. Each day 117 people die in traffic accidents, that's 1 every 12 minutes. By the time you have finished reading this little story 1 person has died in a traffic related accident. If this happened with airplane crashes, the nation would be up in arms demanding action be taken. But, for some reason when it happens on our roadways, no one really seems to care. Well, we as Police Officers do care, and so should you!

Perhaps the most heard comment we as Police Officers hear when we issue someone a ticket is,"Why don't you go out and arrest real criminals instead of bothering innocent people and writing traffic tickets?" Trust me, we would love nothing more. Unfortunately many citizens forget a few very important points when they make this statement and I hope this section will help clear up some of the misconceptions.

When you commit a traffic violation, you are violating the law. These laws are made with one thing in mind, and that is the safety of all people who use the roadways whether in a vehicle, on a bicycle, or on foot. By following these basic driving safety guidelines the number of accidents, as well as the injuries and deaths that come with them, will be reduced.

  • Use seat belts and child restraint seats properly.
  • Drive according to weather and road conditions. Remember the posted speed limit is the maximum speed you may travel under perfect weather and road conditions.
  • Pay attention to your driving. The car is not the place to read, use a cell phone, or put on makeup while you are driving.
  • Drive defensively and expect the unexpected.
  • Watch for and obey all traffic control signs.
  • Don't tailgate.
  • Don't have tunnel vision. Scan the area in front of you for possible hazards including pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • When riding a motorcycle or bicycle wear a helmet.
  • Don't be in a hurry. Give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination.
  • Be considerate of others on the roadway.

Each year the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the Department of Transportation compiles figures for the previous year regarding traffic accidents. These statistics are very eye opening.

Traffic Crash Statistics

Harwood Heights Statistics - 2014

  • total crashes - 261
  • number of injuries - 45
  • number of fatalities - 1
  • most common cause of crash - rear end
  • day most crashes occurred - Thursday
  • time most crashed occurred - between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.
  • alcohol related crashes - 6

To see even more statistics and to learn about traffic safety please stop by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration web page:

Illinois Vehicle Code

Driving Under The Influence

On July 2, 1997 former Governor James Edgar signed into law a Bill that reduced Illinois legal intoxicated limit from .10 to .08. With this, Illinois became the first Midwestern state to set a BAC of .08 as the illegal limit for drunk driving. The passage of this law is a major step in making the highways of Illinois and Harwood Heights safer for everyone.

What Is DUI?

Driving Under the Influence is defined as operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. In Illinois, a driver is legally considered to be under the influence if he/she has a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or greater. A driver's BAC is based on the ratio of alcohol to blood or breath. A person can also be convicted of DUI if the have a BAC between .05 and .08 if additional evidence can be presented showing impairment.

Effects Of Alcohol On The Body

Even with that first drink alcohol begins to affect coordination, reaction time and judgment. A person with a BAC of .06 percent is twice as likely to be involved in a fatal crash as a non-drinking driver. By the time it reaches .08 percent that person is 11 times more likely to be killed in a single vehicle crash than a non-drinking driver.

There is only one way to rid the body of alcohol and that is time. Fresh air, coffee, a cold shower, and food do nothing to help a person sober up. It takes about one hour for the body to metabolize one half ounce of alcohol. Each of the following is equivalent to .54 ounces of alcohol.

  • One 12-ounce beer
  • One 5-ounce glass of wine
  • One 1.5-ounce shot of hard liquor.

.08 Facts

  • At .08, all drivers are impaired to the point that critical driving skills are greatly diminished. Studies indicate that at a .08 BAC level, a driver's steering, braking, speed control, lane changing, gear changing and judgments of speed and distance are all significantly impaired.
  • To reach .08, a 170-pound male would have to consume five or more drinks in a one-hour period on an empty stomach. A 137-pound female would have to consume four drinks in one hour to reach .08. A drink is considered a 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine or a cocktail containing 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
  • At .08, a driver is three times more likely to be involved in a car crash than a sober driver, and 11 times more likely to be killed in a single-vehicle crash.
  • Skeptics of .08 laws suggest that repeat offenders are the "real" problem with regard to drunk driving. However, about 80 percent of alcohol-related crash fatalities are caused by drivers with no arrests for drunk driving during the previous three years.

DUI Facts

In Illinois in 2003:

  • Over 49,000 DUI arrests were recorded by the Secretary of State's office.
  • 639 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes, which was 44 percent of the 1,453 total crash fatalities.
  • 83 percent of all drivers arrested for DUI are first offenders, while 18 percent have had a previous DUI arrest within the past five years.
  • More than 93 percent of all drivers arrested for DUI, who were eligible, lost their driving privileges.
  • Males ages 21-24 had the highest DUI arrest rate (27.6 per 1,000 licensed drivers). This rate was four times greater than that of all other drivers arrested for DUI (6 per 1,000).
  • 2,863 drivers under age 21 lost their driving privileges due to "Use It & Lose It" law violations.

National Statistics 2003

  • 17,013 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes. That comes out to one death every 31 minutes.
  • 275,000 people are injured in alcohol-related crashes each year, or one injury every 2 minutes.
  • More than 1.5 million drivers are arrested for DUI each year.
  • Alcohol is a factor in at least 40 percent of all fatal crashes.
  • Alcohol-related crashes, injuries and fatalities cost society more than $45 billion in lost productivity, medical care, property damage and other direct expenditures annually.

Statutory Summary Suspension

A statutory summary suspension is an administrative procedure providing for the automatic license suspension of a driver arrested for DUI who fails chemical testing (a test showing a BAC of .08 percent or more or any amount of cannabis or a controlled substance) or refuses to submit to or fails to complete testing.

Penalty for failing chemical testing:

  • First offense – mandatory three-month driver's license suspension
  • Second offense – Mandatory 12-month suspension

Penalty for refusing to submit to chemical testing:

  • First offense – mandatory six-month driver's license suspension
  • Second offense – mandatory 36-month suspension

Summary suspensions are automatic, effective on the 46th day from the date of notification of the suspension. This suspension does not take the place of criminal penalties for a DUI conviction. The driver can request a judicial hearing to challenge the legality of an arrest; however, the request does not stop the suspension from taking place.

A judicial driving permit (JDP) or restricted driving permit (RDP) may be available to qualifying offenders during the suspension period.

DUI Penalties

Penalties For DUI Convictions-Under Age 21
Convictions First Second Third
Loss of driving privileges Minimum 2 years Minimum 5 years Minimum 10 years
Eligible for RDP? Yes under certain conditions After 1 year with restrictions Yes with restrictions
Jail Possible 0-12 months Possible 0-12 months: Mandatory 5 days or 30 days of community service Possible 1-3 years
Community Service 100 hours 30 days or 5 days in jail if within a 5 year period If given probation, possible 30 days
Fines Up to $2,500.00 Up to $2,500.00 Up to $25,000.00


Penalties For DUI Convictions- Age 21 and older
Convictions First Second Third
Loss of driving privileges Minimum 1 year Minimum 5 years Minimum 10 years
Eligible for RDP? Yes subject to provisions Yes with provisions Yes with provisions
Jail Possible 0-12 months Possible 0-12 months: Mandatory 5 days or 30 days of community service Possible-1-3 years (Class 4 felony)
Community Service 100 hours 30 days or 5 days in jail if within a 5 year period If given probation, possible 30 days
Fines Up to $2,500.00 Up to $2,500.00 Up to $25,000.00

Underage DUI and "Use It & Lose It"

Under the "Use It & Lose It" zero tolerance law, drivers under age 21 with any trace of alcohol in their systems will lose their driving privileges. Under age drivers face more severe DUI penalties than those 21 and older:

Underage DUI and "Use It & Lose It"

Under the "Use It & Lose It" zero tolerance law, drivers under age 21 with any trace of alcohol in their systems will lose their driving privileges. Under age drivers face more severe DUI penalties than those 21 and older:

Penalties for drinking and driv, ing under age 21
  Zero Tolerance (BAC of .01 or greater) DUI Conviction (BAC of .08 or greater)
Loss of driving privileges 1st violation 3 months 2 years minimum
Test Refusal 1st violation 6 months 2 years minimum
Loss of driving privileges 2nd violation 1 year Until age 21 or 3 years minimum
Test Refusal 2nd violation 2 years Until age 21 or 3 years minimum
Effect on driving record Except during suspension period not on public driving record as long as there is no subsequent suspension Permanently on public driving record
  • Offenders are not eligible to apply for a restricted driving permit until the second year of revocation.

Drivers under 21 convicted of Illegal transportation of alcohol have their driving privileges suspended for one year for the first offense and revoked for a subsequent offense.

Providing Alcohol to a Person Under 21

  • Class A misdemeanor with a possible imprisonment for up to one year and fines of $500.00 to $1,000.00

Parental Responsibility

  • Applies to parents or guardians knowingly allowing underage consumption of alcoholic beverages at gatherings at a residence.
  • A class A misdemeanor with possible imprisonment for up to one year and fines of $500.00 to $1,000.00.

DUI and Safety Links

Seat Belts & Child Restraints

Over the past decade, highway fatalities and injuries have declined. One main reason for this decline is that more motorists are wearing their seat belts. Seat belts are the most effective means of reducing fatalities and serious injuries in traffic crashes. When a traffic crash occurs, occupants are still traveling at the vehicle's original speed at the moment of impact. Just after the vehicle rapidly comes to a complete stop, unbelted occupants slam into the steering wheel, windshield or other parts of the vehicle's interior. Seat belts are effective in reducing fatalities and injuries caused by this second collision.

Seat belts also provide the greatest protection against occupant ejection, one of the most injurious events that can happen to a person in a crash. In fatal crashes in 2003, only one percent of restrained passenger car occupants were ejected, compared to 29 percent of unrestrained occupants. In fatal crashes, 74 percent of the occupants who are ejected from passenger cars are killed.

In 2003 safety belts saved an estimated 14,903 lives in the United States. Research has found that lap/shoulder belts, when used properly, reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent.

Remember the law in Illinois recently changed making the failure to wear your seat belt a primary enforcement violation. Before this change the officer needed to observe another violation such as speeding before stopping and citing you for a seat belt violation. Now the officer can stop and cite you solely because you were observed not wearing your seat belt.

Additional Facts

  • Adults who do not buckle-up are sending children a deadly message that it is all right not to wear a seat belt. Research shows that when a driver is unbuckled, children are restrained only 24% of the time.
  • In 2003, 1,454 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in Illinois
  • The Illinois Department of Transportation estimates 7 our of 10 people killed in car crashes were unrestrained
  • The cost of unbuckled drivers and passengers goes beyond those killed and the loss to their families. We all pay for those who don't buckle up in higher taxes, higher health care costs, and higher insurance costs. Every American pays about $580 a year toward the cost of crashes. If everyone buckled up, this figure would drop significantly.

Air Bags

Air bags when combined with lap/shoulder safety belts offer the most effective safety protection available for passenger vehicle occupants. In 2003, an estimated 2,488 lives were saved by air bags. From 1987 to 2003, an estimated 14,227 lives were saved. Don't make the mistake of thinking that air bags alone will give you the safety needed to keep you from injury. When used without lap/shoulder belts the force of the air bag deploying can throw you across the driver's compartment causing severe injury and even death.

Child Safety Seats

llinois' new "Booster Law" went into effect January 1st, 2004. In most cases, it is now illegal to transport an unrestrained child in Illinois. The Child Passenger Protection Act requires that all children up to their 8th birthday must be secured in an appropriate child restraint system (a carseat or booster that meets NHTSA safety standards). Children between 8 and 16 years old must be seated in a seatbelt, according to the previous law that went into effect January 1, 2002. As these are primary moving violations, you can be stopped and ticketed if a child is observed to be improperly restrained in your vehicle. How does Illinois compare to other states? Details of the Illinois law and current laws in other states can be found in the links below:

The law requires anyone who transports children in Illinois in non-commercial vehicles are to do so in the following manner:

  • Children under the age of four years must be secured in an approved child restraint seat. These seats include infant seats, convertible seats (rear facing for infants and forward-facing for toddlers), and booster seats that are used with the vehicle lap and shoulder belt system.
  • Children and young people 4 and up to 16 years of age must be secured in either a child safety seat or seat belt.
  • The parent or legal guardian of a child under the age of 4 years is responsible for providing a child safety seat to anyone who transports his or her child.
  • Every person under the age of 18 years who transports a child 8 years of age or older (up to 18 years) is responsible for securing that child in a properly adjusted and fastened safety belt.

Those found in violation of the law the first time will be fined $50.00, which is waived upon proof of possession of an approved safety seat. Subsequent violations are punishable by a $100.00 fine.

Children with physical disabilities that prevent the use of standard safety seats are exempt from the provisions of the law if the disability is duly certified by a physician.

Some excellent sites on safety seats can be found at the following links:

Proper Child Safety Seat Use
Buckle Everyone. Children age 12 and under in back seat.
  Infants Toddler/Preschool Young Children
Age & Weight Birth to at least 1 year and 20-22 lbs. Over 20 lbs. to about 40 lbs and over 1 year Over 40 lbs. up to about 80 lbs or more
Type of Seat Infant only or rear-facing convertible Convertible/Forward-facing Belt positioning booster seat
Seat Position Rear-facing only Forward-facing Forward-facing
Always Make Sure: Children to at least 1 year and at least 20 lbs. in rear-facing seats. Harness straps at or below shoulder level Harness straps should be at or above shoulders. Most seats require top slot for forward-facing Belt positioning booster seats must be used with both lap and shoulder belt
Warning Do not place infants in the front seat of cars with air bags. All children age 12 and under ride in the back seat. Make sure the lap belt fits low and tight to avoid abdominal injuries
Always fill out the registration card that comes with the seat in case of a recall

For the most current safety seat information you can call the Department of Transportation at 1-888-327-4236 or visit their web page at National Highway Traffic Safety

Child Passenger Safety Resource Center - 1-877-581-5881

Some eye opening 2003 facts are:

  • In 2003 there were 459 occupant fatalities among children under the age of 5.
  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children of all races ages 5-14.
  • More than half of the 1,591 children who died in crashes were unbelted. Tragically, nearly half of these children would be alive today if only they had been properly restrained.
  • Of these fatalities, 49% of the children were unrestrained. Nearly half of these children would be alive today if they had been properly restrained.
  • Among children under 5 years old, an estimated 446 lives were saved by child restraint use.
  • Child safety seats, when properly installed, reduce the risk of death by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers.
  • If adults properly restrained children under the age of 5 100% of the time, it would save more than 550 additional children's lives.
  • Four out of five children riding in child safety seats are improperly restrained. During Child Passenger Safety Week over 1,000 locations nation wide will be available for safety seat inspections. You can go to the National Highway Traffic Safety web site or call 888-DASH-2-DOT for a location near you.

There are times when child safety seats are recalled. If you hear of a recall for the safety seat that you purchased contacted the toll free number of the company you purchased the seat. To check for recalls or for safety seat company information you can call toll free at (888) DASH 2 DOT. When you call have the following information handy. This information can be found on the label attached to the seat.

  1. The manufacturer's name
  2. The model number or name
  3. The manufacture date

The Future

Currently in the United States 79% of all drivers wear their seat belts. We hope that by the year 2005 the percentage will reach 90%. We urge you to do your part to help reach this goal. It just may be your life that you will be saving.

Bicycle Safety

Did you know that the first automobile crash in the United States happened in New York City in 1896? It involved an automobile that collided with a pedalcycle rider. Since 1932 when statistics were first recorded dealing with pedalcyclists accidents over 49,000 people have died as a result of pedalcycle accidents. In 2003, 622 pedalcyclists were killed in traffic crashes and an additional 46,000 were injured. In Illinois there were 22 pedalcycle fatalities.

10 Smart Routes to Bicycle Safety

  1. Protect your head. Wear a helmet.
  2. See and be seen.
  3. Avoid biking at night.
  4. Stay alert. Always keep a lookout for obstacles in your path.
  5. Go with the flow. The safe way is the right way.
  6. Check for traffic. Always be aware of the traffic around you.
  7. Learn rules of the road. Obey traffic laws.
  8. Assure bicycle readiness. Make sure your bicycle is adjusted properly.
  9. Stop it. Always check brakes before riding.
  10. Don't flip over your bicycle. Wheels should be securely fastened.

Facts And Figures

  • Pedalcyclists under the age of 16 accounted for 23% of all pedalcyclists killed and 37% of those injured in traffic crashes in 2003.
  • Each year almost 400,000 children ages 14 and under are treated in emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries.
  • Universal bicycle helmet use by children ages 4 to 15 would prevent 39,000 to 45,000 head injuries each year.
  • Bicycle helmets are 85-88% effective in reducing head and brain injuries.
  • Despite the fact that 70 to 80% of all fatal bicycle crashes involve head injuries, only 20-25% of all bicyclists wear bicycle helmets.
  • The estimated cost of bicycle-related injuries and deaths is $8 billion

How To Help Stop Fatalities and Injuries

  • Make sure that your child wear a helmet every time they ride their bicycle. Replace the helmet if it has been damaged.
  • Let your child pick a helmet. Make sure that it meets the Snell Memorial Foundation or American National Standards Institute standards.
  • Instruct your child on the correct way to wear a helmet. Make sure it fits snugly and covers the forehead.
  • Set a good example; Wear a helmet yourself.
  • Notice when your child wears a helmet correctly and praise them for wearing it.
  • Check your child's bicycle to make sure it is in good working order. Teach your child how to inspect the bicycle and have them check it before every ride.
  • Teach your child to look left-right-left before entering the roadway or intersection.
  • Never allow your child to ride a bicycle while listening to audio headphones.
  • Stress the need to ride defensively since many drivers do not see bicyclists.
  • Bicyclists should ride single file on the right side of the road-just like cars-and signal their intentions to other road users.
  • Stress the importance of obeying all traffic laws and to walk their bicycle across intersections. Remember when you ride your bicycles on the roadway you are part of the vehicular traffic and must follow all traffic laws.
  • Avoid riding at night. Use reflectors, lights, and special reflective or bright colored clothing if you must ride at night.
  • Help reduce bicycle theft and lock it properly to an immovable object.
  • Remember these safety tips are for everyone not just the children.


New Young Drivers

The following information/links are helpful for those young drivers who newly acquired their driver's license.

How to handle a car accident

Teen driving guide

IL Rules of the Road Workbook and written exam sample questions

Learn how to drive a car with a manual transmission/stick shift

Aggressive Drivers

One of the most dangerous combinations on the roadways today is someone who is angry and behind the wheel of a car. When a driver is filled with rage the car stops being a means of transportation and becomes a weapon. A weapon that can and has killed. I'm sure you have seen these aggressive drivers on the roadway but what do we know about them?

  • They are high risk drivers who climb into the anonymity of a car and take out their frustrations on anybody at any time.
  • Their frustration levels are high, and their level of concern for other motorists is low.
  • They run stop signs, red light, speed, tailgate, weave in and out of traffic, pass on the right, make improper and unsafe lane changes, make hand and facial gestures, scream, honk and flash their lights.

If confronted with an aggressive driver:

  • Make every attempt to get out of their way.
  • Put your pride in the back seat. Do not challenge them by speeding up or attempting to hold your own in your travel lane.
  • Make sure you wear your seat belt.
  • Avoid eye contact.
  • Ignore gestures and refuse to return them.
  • Report aggressive drivers to the appropriate authorities by providing a vehicle description, license number, location, and, if possible, direction of travel.
  • If an aggressive driver is involved in a crash farther down the road, stop a safe distance from the crash scene, wait for the police to arrive, and report the driving behavior that you witnessed.

Drowsy Driving
Countingsheep is a website that provides scientifically-backed research regarding the science behind sleep and its impact on daily life.  Their Dare to Drive Drowsy page provides information about who is at risk, how to detect if you are too drowsy to drive, prevention tips, and facts about driving while drowsy.  Visit their website at

Pedestrian Safety

There is one painfully obvious fact when it comes to a pedestrian that is struck by a car...the pedestrian is going to lose! To reduce the number of deaths and injuries, both the drivers and pedestrians must do their part to keep the roadways safe.

  • In 2003, there were 4,749 pedestrians killed, and 70,000 injured in traffic accidents. That works out to a pedestrian being injured evry 8 minutes and one killed every 108 minutes
  • 72% of pedestrian fatalities occur in an urban area. 79% happen at non-intersections locations, 89% happen in normal weather conditions and 65% occur at night.

By following a few basic safety tips everyone can do their part to lower these statistics.

  • Be alert to traffic around you. Don't anticipate what a driver will do, wait to see what they do.
  • Cross at intersections whenever possible. Follow all pedestrian traffic signals and look left, right then left again before crossing. Continue to look left and right as you cross.
  • At night wear light colored clothing or clothing with reflective material.
  • Don't walk if you are intoxicated. 31% of pedestrians killed had a blood alcohol levels of over .10
  • Teach your children all of the safety rules and lead by example by following them yourself.

School Bus Safety

For Students

  • Be at the bus stop at least 5 minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
  • When the bus approaches, stand at least 3 giant steps (6 feet) away from the edge of the road, and line up away from the street.
  • Wait until the bus stops, the door opens, and the driver says that it is okay before stepping on the bus.
  • When crossing the street in front of the bus, walk on the sidewalk or side of the road to a point at least 5 giant steps (10 feet) ahead of the bus before you cross. Be sure the bus driver can see you and you can see the driver.
  • When exiting the bus, be careful that clothing with drawstrings and book bags with straps do not get caught in the handrail or door.
  • Walk at least three giant steps away from the side of the bus any time you are walking beside the bus.
  • If you drop something near or under the bus, tell the bus driver. Never try to pick it up. The driver may not see you and begin to drive away.

For Motorists

  • When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, watch for children traveling to school. They are unpredictable in their actions, and it is your responsibility to anticipate and prepare to react to what they may do.
  • Drive slowly. Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in the neighborhood.
  • Watch for children playing and gathering near school bus stops.
  • Be alert! Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic.
  • Learn the flashing light system that school bus drivers use to alert motorists about stopping: Yellow flashing lights mean the bus is preparing to stop and load or unload , children. , Motorists need, to slow down and prepare to stop. Red flashing lights and extended stop arm mean the bus has stopped and children are boarding or exiting the bus. Motorists must come to a complete stop a safe distance from the bus and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the arm is retracted, and the bus begins moving before they start driving again.
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