Illinois eighth-deadliest state for drunk driving accidents as authorities launch nationwide holiday crackdown

A nationwide Intensive Holiday Drunk & Impaired Driving Crackdown & Advertising Blitz has been announced by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The Chicago car accident lawyers at Abels & Annes noted on our Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer blog that Mothers Against Drunk Driving is also increasing enforcement and awareness efforts for the holidays.

In 2007, nearly 1,500 people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In Illinois, of the 1,043 people killed in traffic accidents in 2008, one in three (362) were legally drunk and one in four (252) had a blood alcohol level of almost twice the legal limit (.15) or higher, as Abels & Annes reported in an earlier blog.

That is a a 17 percent reduction from the 439 Illinois fatalities involving drunk drivers in 2007. The reduction puts Illinois in the middle of the pack — tied for 20th when comparing the drunk-driving fatality rate in all 50 states.

Still, Illinois’ 362 fatal drunk driving accidents was eighth highest in the nation after Texas (1,269), California (1,029), Florida (875), Pennsylvania (496), North Carolina (423), Georgia (416) and South Carolina (403).

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and R. Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, have launched “Over the Limit. Under Arrest” a national drunk and impaired driving crackdown involving thousands of law enforcement agencies during the holiday season.”Drunk driving is a major public safety threat that still claims thousands of lives every year,” Secretary LaHood said. “Many states continue to step up their efforts to get drunk drivers off our roads, but the numbers tell us we have to do more. Drinking and driving is dangerous and unacceptable, and I’m asking law enforcement to stay vigilant during this busy holiday season.”

Five states have shown great reductions in alcohol-impaired driving fatality rates from 2007 to 2008. Those include Vermont, Wisconsin, Maine, Nebraska and Minnesota. The states with the least progress are Idaho, Rhode Island, Wyoming, Kansas and New Hampshire, according to government statistics.

Driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher is illegal in all 50 states. But the focus will also be on drugged driving.

“Like alcohol, drugs impair perception, judgment, motor skills and memory. These effects can be dangerously magnified when drugs are consumed with alcohol, even in cases where a driver’s blood alcohol level is below legal limits,” said Director Kerlikowske. “Driving while impaired, from alcohol, drugs, or both, puts us all at risk and must be prevented.”

The campaign also reminds motorists that government research has consistently shown that more people are killed in crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver on the weekends and at night. In September, Abels & Annes also reported Illinois officials are concerned about the prevalence of weekend nighttime accidents.

In 2008 alone, 58 percent of drivers and motorcycle riders were killed in crashes that took place over the weekend and at night were alcohol-impaired.

“My message to drivers is this: if you decide to drink, find a safe and sober ride home or your chances of arrest are extremely high,” said Secretary LaHood. “Law enforcement officers will be out in full force during the upcoming holiday, especially at night and on the weekends, looking for the drunk drivers that put the rest of us at risk.”

If you or a loved one has been involved in a drunk driving accident, contact the Chicago drunk driving accident attorneys at Abels & Annes for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call (866) 99-ABELS. There is no fee unless you win.

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