Illinois Traffic Deaths Decline: Gas Prices Helping?

10/09/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Illinois State Police say 2008 may be least deadly year on Illinois roadways in recent history.

Master Sergeant Brian Ley says that as of Friday, only 681 traffic fatalities had occurred this year, 172 fewer than at the same time in 2007.

And 2007 had only 1,248 traffic deaths -- the lowest number since 1924, when there were far fewer cars on the road.

Ley says increased seat belt usage could account for some of the decline. A recent survey by the Illinois Department of Transportation said 90.1 percent of drivers and front seat passengers now wear them, compared to about 76 percent in 2003.

But a recent study by a University of Michigan professor suggests that high gas prices may also be helping with the decline in fatalities.