SPRINGFIELD –The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Illinois State Police (ISP) are partnering with numerous law enforcement agencies throughout the state during St. Patrick’s Day to remind everyone to act responsibly by designating a sober driver if they plan on consuming alcohol. The departments are providing extra patrols and checkpoints to crackdown on impaired drivers.
The message is simple. Keep the streets safe this St. Patrick’s Day by drinking responsibly and designating a sober driver before heading to the local parade, pub or house party or risk arrest for driving under the influence.
According to statistics by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (NHTSA) on St. Patrick’s Day in 2008, 37 percent of the drivers involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or above. Additional NHTSA statistics show that in 2008, there were 134 crash fatalities on St. Patrick’s Day. Out of that number, 50 people were killed in traffic crashes that involved at least one driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher.
“We know everyone wants to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with family and friends and really enjoy celebrating the Irish,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig. “However, we just want to remind people that your luck will run out if your caught drinking and driving.”
Over the past five years in Illinois, 20 people lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes; 9 of those fatalities were alcohol-related based on at least one driver being tested for alcohol and having a BAC of 0.01 or greater.
“The Illinois State Police and local law enforcement are committed to keeping impaired drivers off the roads and preventing alcohol-related tragedies every day,” said ISP Director Jonathon E. Monken. “Individuals who make the decision to drive while impaired will be arrested. If you are going to celebrate St. Patrick's Day by drinking, don’t take any chances. Designate a driver and make the celebration safe for everyone.”
Through St. Patrick’s Day, IDOT is making $852,000 programmed hire back dollars available to assist in funding over 100 roadside safety checks. Over 100 law enforcement agencies are participating in the enforcement mobilization. In addition, the Illinois State Police are conducting saturation patrols, late-night safety belt enforcement zones in every district, impaired driving countermeasures and special operations to counter underage drinking. This stepped-up effort will be accompanied by strong local educational efforts, encouraging the use of designated drivers, but also reminding motorists of the risk of arrest if they drive impaired.
There is no luck involved. Just follow these simple steps so you can enjoy a safe St. Patrick’s Day without jeopardizing your life and the lives of others on the road.
If you are hosting a party:
• Remember, you can be held liable and prosecuted if someone you served ends up in an impaired driving crash;
• Make sure all of your guests designate their sober drivers in advance, or help arrange ride-sharing with other sober drivers;
• Serve lots of food - and include lots of non-alcoholic beverages at the party;
• Keep the numbers for local cab companies handy, and take the keys away from anyone who is thinking of driving impaired.
If you are attending a party:
• Designate your sober driver BEFORE the party begins and give that person your car keys;
• If you do not have a designated driver, ask a sober friend for a ride home; call a cab, sober friend, family member to pick you up or use public transportation if available; or just stay where you are and sleep it off until you are sober;
• Never let a friend leave your sight if you think they are about to drive while impaired.
• Always buckle up – it is still your best defense against an impaired driver.
For more information about impaired driving in Illinois log onto www.drivesoberillinois.org. In addition, readers can follow IDOT’s Traffic Safety Division at www.twitter.com/ILTrafficSafety and/or become a fan of “IL Traffic Safety” on Facebook. The Division of Traffic Safety’s public service announcements can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/user/ILtrafficsafety.