On Tuesday morning, three crashes within an hour of each other bumped the total number of crashes in the area since the beginning of the year up to 185.
At least five fatalities have resulted from those crashes, including a woman who was fatally struck by a wrong-way driver Sunday.
While the numbers may seem high, Illinois State Police trooper Calvin Dye Jr. said they are not unusual for the area.
In fact, Dye said, the number of crashes over the past few years have been fairly consistent. By this time last year, for example, the area had 191 total crashes from Jan. 1 to Jan. 23.
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But, Dye said while the crash numbers are consistent, that doesn’t mean the accident rate in the area isn’t a problem.
“We had around 3,700 last year and that was just State Police on those highways in our counties. If you go back 20 to 30 years, they’re about the same. It’s a consistent problem,” Dye said of accidents in the District 11, which covers Bond, Monroe, Madison, St. Clair and Clinton counties.
Out of the 22 Illinois State Police districts, Illinois District 11 has the second highest number of crashes.
Dye said that out of the 22 Illinois State Police districts, Illinois District 11 has the second highest number of crashes.
In 2015, St. Clair County alone had the fourth highest number of fatal crashes in the state, according to Illinois Department of Transportation data. The top three counties were all in the Chicago area.
In St. Clair County specifically, crashes appear to be on the rise. Between 2012 and 2015, the number of total crashes rose by 500. In 2012, there were 27 fatal crashes and 28 fatalities. In 2016, those numbers rose to 38 and 41. Data for 2017 was not available.
That means that out of 35 counties with the highest crash fatalities in 2015, St. Clair County had the highest number of fatal crashes per capita.
Out of the 35 counties in Illinois with the highest crash fatalities in 2015, St. Clair County had the highest number of fatal crashes per capita.
It should be noted that the population of St. Clair County did not increase between 2012 and 2015 and actually fell by about 5,000 during those years.
Dye said one of the reasons crashes are so common in the area is because it is a heavily concentrated metropolitan region. Unlike in larger cities, however, people are not in bumper to bumper traffic — they’re driving at high speeds down busy roads.
“You have Edwardsville, Collinsville, Belleville and other cities that all run together,” Dye said. “You have all these interstates and it’s 20 miles before you hit a rural area. All the highways run right together and you also have people coming and going from St. Louis.”
Dye said the majority of the time, crashes are caused by poor driving behavior such as reckless driving, weaving in and out of traffic, tailgating and speeding excessively. Other times, drunk drivers cause severe crashes.
At times, however, police are able to find the person responsible for the accident or prevent it entirely with help from what Dye calls their greatest resource — other drivers.
Witnesses at crashes, for example, often help police piece together what may have caused the accident.
“If we get on the scene and witnesses say the car was going way too fast, we can look at the car upside down in the ditch and take that into account,” Dye said.
Oftentimes, drivers on the road call 911 when they see reckless driving, allowing officers to find the car and driver before they cause a problem.
“We get a lot of our DUI drivers when people call in. A driver will see them all over the road, call 911 and give us the plate and say, for example, ‘They’re exiting and heading south on Green Mount.’ Then Shiloh or O’Fallon or local police can be sitting there waiting for the car to get there and sure enough, when the officer pulls over the driver, they’re drunk.”
Dye said this help from the public is essential in preventing crashes.
We commend citizens that are driving safely and reporting bad behaviors to us. We can’t do it alone.
Illinois State Police Trooper Calvin Dye Jr.
“We commend citizens that are driving safely and reporting bad behaviors to us. We can’t do it alone,” he said.
When asked why drivers continue to drive recklessly, Dye said it’s because “people never think it can happen to them.”
“You get the average person who drives past five to ten crashes a year. Us officers know that’s not the case, with state police we’re getting 10 crashes a day,” Dye said. “We know how frequently they happen and the majority of the time, the driver is making bad choices behind the wheel.”
At a glance
These are the top six counties for fatal crashes in 2015*:
Fatal crashes 2015
Crashes per capita 2015
(*latest available data for all counties)
Crashes in St. Clair County 2012-2016
St Clair County
Crashes in Madison County 2012-2016
Crashes in Monroe County 2012-2016