SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced that the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is bringing together law enforcement officials, judges, traffic safety advocates and substance abuse prevention experts in a statewide driving safety summit designed to step up the state’s efforts to reduce fatalities caused by impaired drivers. The summit will be held at IDOT headquarters in Springfield this week.
Illinois is one of the first states in the nation to hold a statewide impaired driving summit in the wake of a National Summit in March hosted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Leaders of the National Summit urged states to hold similar summits at the statewide level.
“We’ve made a lot of progress in Illinois to reduce overall traffic fatalities by 100 a year,” Governor Blagojevich said. “But unfortunately, some still aren’t getting the message. Impaired drivers account for 45 percent of the fatalities on our roadways. This summit will give our police and traffic safety advocates – those on the front line of this battle – the chance to learn about and to implement new strategies to make roads safer.”
“IDOT is proud to host this statewide summit on impaired driving,” said IDOT Secretary Timothy W. Martin. “As a result of innovative ideas and knowledgeable presenters from Illinois and around the country gathering here this week, we hope to enlighten and educate the participants in order to have a positive impact on the impaired driving problem in Illinois.”
“I congratulate Illinois for taking the initiative and hosting one of the first statewide impaired driving summits in the nation,” said Don McNamara, NHTSA’s Regional Administrator for the Great Lakes Region and one of the featured speakers at the summit. “This meeting will provide an invaluable opportunity for leaders in the effort to prevent fatalities caused by impaired driving to compare notes and share successful strategies.”
The other featured speakers at the summit, which starts Tuesday, include Chuck Hurley, National Executive Director of MADD, and Capt. Andrew Hall of the Fresno, CA., Police Department, who runs a nationally recognized traffic safety program that focuses on education and enforcement.
The agenda for the three-day meeting covers law enforcement practices, the legislative process, combating alcohol use on a college campus, community based DUI prevention efforts and updates on alcohol abuse prevention efforts in Illinois.
In addition, officials will announce which police agencies were singled out for their effective anti-impaired driving strategies on both the state and national level, as part of the Illinois Traffic Safety Challenge.
The Blagojevich Administration has made a sustained effort to crack down on impaired drivers by giving law enforcement agencies more tools and resources. Earlier this year, the Governor signed Senate Bill 1088, which gave police departments more flexibility to use funds seized in DUI cases to pay for overtime, saturation patrols, sting operations and enhanced training. Previously these funds could only be used for equipment.
Previous impaired driving measures signed by the Governor include:
- Harsher penalties for repeat DUI offenders, includes making it a felony offense if convicted of DUI 3 or more times, no probation for a fourth or fifth conviction;
- Chemical testing required for those arrested for hit-and-run;
- Harsher sentencing for causing a death while driving impaired; and
- Tougher penalties for driving on a DUI-revoked license.
In the Fall of 2004, Gov. Blagojevich created an Illinois Alcohol Abuse Task Force, which is due to present him with its recommendations later this year to improve the coordination of the alcohol abuse, prevention and enforcement efforts of Illinois state agencies and organizations, as well as to better share information, prevent duplication and to coordinate the highest and best use of resources.