CHICAGO – As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), Illinois State Police (ISP) and hundreds of local law enforcement agencies urge motorists to plan a safe ride home and never get behind the wheel after drinking. This weekend, state and local law enforcement officials across Illinois will increase patrols to crack down on drunk drivers as part of the statewide Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over public safety campaign.
St. Patrick’s Day is a traditional day of celebration with family and friends, at local parades, restaurants and drinking establishments. Too often, these celebrations lead to excessive drinking, which can turn deadly because of drunk drivers.
“Drunk driving is dangerous, deadly and against the law – and it will not be tolerated in Illinois,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider. “Today we are giving fair warning to everyone traveling during St. Patrick’s Day that law enforcement officers will be out on patrol. If you are caught driving drunk you will be arrested. If you are observed not wearing a seat belt, you will be ticketed.”
Beginning March 14 and continuing through St. Patrick’s Day, Sunday, March 17, IDOT will provide more than $600,000 in federal highway safety dollars to fund additional roadside safety checks, saturation patrols and other impaired driving countermeasures. In addition, nighttime safety belt patrols will be funded including hundreds of nighttime patrols to counter low safety belt usage late at night. In addition to ISP and the Illinois Secretary of State Police, about 200 local law enforcement agencies are participating. A combined total of more than 1,000 roadside safety checks, safety belt enforcement zones and other enforcement activities will take place during the St Patrick’s Day period, with most patrols taking place on weekend.
According to statewide traffic safety data, during the past five years in Illinois, 10 people lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes on St. Patrick’s Day including three deaths during St. Patrick’s Day 2012 (fatalities occurring on March 17 from midnight through 11:59 p.m.). Two of the 10 fatalities since 2007 involved a driver who had been drinking alcohol. .
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that more than 700 people were killed nationwide in crashes involving drunk drivers during St. Patrick’s Day holidays from 2006 to 2010. There were 129 lives lost in 2010 alone. (NHTSA defines St. Patrick’s Day as 6 p.m. March 16 to 5:59 a.m. March 18.)
On average, every 51 minutes a person is killed in a drunk-driving crash in the United States and the majority of these crashes involve drivers who have blood alcohol concentrations of .15 grams per deciliter or higher (g/dL), almost twice legal limit of .08 g/dL.
To help ensure a safe St. Patrick’s Day, follow these suggestions:
If you are hosting a party:
• Remember, you can be held liable and prosecuted if someone you served is involved 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.