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Report: Deadly Crashes Up 9 Percent In Illinois This Year

Wrong-Way Fatal Crash

Four people were killed early Monday when a wrong-way driver slammed head-on into another car on I-80. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The number of deadly crashes on Illinois roads is up 9 percent from this time last year, according to a published report.

As CBS 2’s Kris Habermehl reports, a Chicago Sun-Times report said as of Wednesday, 533 people had been killed since Jan. 1 in vehicle and motorcycle crashes, as well as crashes involving pedestrians or bicyclists.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Brandis Friedman reports

During the same time period in 2011, there were 488 traffic deaths – 45 fewer than this year.

The Illinois Department of Transportation tells the newspaper distracted driving shoulders a large part of the blame for deadly crashes. But the milder winter also played a role, since more drivers were out on the roads than usual, the Sun-Times reported.

In Chicago and the suburbs, the Sun-Times reports, Illinois State Police have also seen an increase in drunken driving crashes and wrong-way drivers, the latter of which have caused the deaths of seven people.

Among the most infamous wrong-way driving cases were a crash on April 30, in which a motorist headed to his job at the Chicago Tribune was killed by a wrong-way driver headed north in the southbound lanes in the Bishop Ford Freeway between 111th and 115th streets. Investigators say 24-year-old Kenneth Owens of Chicago, the driver who hit Ronnie Head, had been drinking before the crash.

And early on Feb. 6, Gustavo Vargas, 29, and his three passengers had just left the Skybox gentlemen’s club in Harvey when he made a U-turn and started heading east in the westbound lanes of Interstate 80 near Kedzie Avenue. Vargas slammed his Infiniti into a Ford Explorer, killing two of his passengers – Jorge Pina, 28, and Armando Ruiz, 29, and the driver of the Explorer, Jason Wepsiec, 35.

The only surviving passenger, Eduardo Rodriguez, 31, said after the crash hat Vargas sped the wrong way down I-80 deliberately, screaming at everyone, “Are you guys ready to die?”