Young men from 18 to 34 accounted for one-third of the fatalities in vehicle crashes last year, or 317 out of 955 deaths, Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider said Monday.
And that wasn't the only troubling statistic IDOT released at a news conference. There's a whole new witching hour, and it starts at 4 p.m. for Illinois motorists.
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That's when seat belt use starts to drop, according to recent data.
The grim statistics should be a starting point for drivers to consider as the Memorial Day weekend approaches, Illinois State Police warned. State and local police are teaming up to conduct extra patrols now through May 27 that will focus not only on drunk drivers but also on seat belt scofflaws.
IDOT data show that 36 percent of drivers and passengers who died in crashes between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. were not belted up. That number jumps to 43 percent at 4 p.m. and continues to skyrocket through the night and dawn hours with a high of 81 percent from 3 to 4 a.m. The IDOT report tracked incidents from 2008 to 2012.
With the new data on how seat belt use declines in the late afternoon, authorities will be targeting that time period as well as morning rush hour.
"Even with nine out of 10 motorists buckling up in Illinois, far too many people are still dying unbuckled, especially during certain times of the day," Schneider said in a statement.