SPRINGFIELD – Traffic Safety officials from the administration of Governor Rod R. Blagojevich were joined today by Secretary of State Jesse White and local police officials in announcing a $1.8 million statewide crackdown on impaired drivers during the upcoming week and throughout the Labor Day weekend.
Funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) Division of Traffic Safety, the enforcement effort involves the Illinois State Police (ISP), the Secretary of State Police and more than 215 other police agencies, statewide. These departments will be conducting hundreds of roadside safety checks and roving patrols during the two-week period. The crackdown also includes a media campaign that will remind the public: “You Drink & Drive. You Lose.”
“In the past few years, drivers in Illinois have done a great job of buckling up and helping to drastically reduce the overall number of traffic fatalities in our state,” said Governor Blagojevich. “However, we haven’t seen a corresponding reduction in alcohol-related fatalities. That’s why IDOT is working with the Illinois State Police and hundreds of police agencies across the state to get impaired drivers off our roads and to keep our families safe.”
The current campaign includes $1 million for police agencies to pay for overtime, so departments can carry out the crackdown without impacting their normal patrol duties, and $800,000 for a new media campaign, titled “Loser.” The new commercial illustrates how one DUI negatively and permanently brands the offender’s image, in addition to jail time, loss of freedom, and legal consequences.
According to IDOT data, 20 people lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes, during the Labor Day weekend in Illinois last year. Seven of those deaths involved a drinking driver.
“In 2006 in Illinois, 594 people died in alcohol-related crashes. That is nearly 50 lives per month,” said Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White. “The message we want to share today is simple: if you drive drunk, we will arrest you. I am proud to partner with IDOT, ISP and local law enforcement agencies for this important initiative. Every drunk driving fatality is one too many.”
“Illinois has seen a historic drop in traffic fatalities under the leadership of Governor Blagojevich – to levels we haven’t seen since 1924,” said IDOT Secretary Milton R. Sees. “But, with more than 45 percent of our state’s traffic fatalities involving alcohol, we know we need to continue aggressively attacking the problem of drunk drivers. Increased enforcement is a way to save more lives. As summer is winding down, we are putting the public on notice – if you drink and drive, you are going to lose.”
The Illinois partnership is part of a national campaign being coordinated with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The national crackdown combines the mobilization of thousands of law enforcement agencies in all 50 states, backed by a major media push, to raise awareness of the consequences of driving impaired. According to NHTSA, studies reveal that nearly 97 percent of the American public sees drinking and driving by others as a threat to their families and themselves.
“The Labor Day holiday is considered to be the last chapter of the summer season and many individuals celebrate throughout the weekend,” said ISP Director Larry G. Trent. “For those who elect to drive while intoxicated, be forewarned that the ISP and our law enforcement partners will have zero tolerance toward impaired driving. If you choose to drive while intoxicated, you will be arrested.”
Motorists can also expect enforcement agencies to check for compliance with Illinois’ primary enforcement safety belt law, in addition to checking for impairment. Since Governor Blagojevich signed the primary safety belt law in 2003, the safety belt usage rate in Illinois climbed from 76 percent to 90 percent in each of the past two years, and fatalities on Illinois roads have declined dramatically.
In 2003, there were 1,454 total fatalities in Illinois; in 2004, there were 1,355; there were 1,363 in 2005; in 2006, there were 1,254; and in 2007, there were 1,248. The past two years have seen the lowest number of traffic fatalities since 1924, when there were 1,065. In 2008, as of Aug. 15, the state has recorded 146 fewer fatalities on a provisional basis than in 2007.