Saturday, March 14, 2009
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State law enforcement warns motorists not to drink and drive on St. Pat's Day

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[March 14, 2009]  SPRINGFIELD -- There is no doubt numerous Illinoisans will celebrate with family and friends this St. Patrick's Day. Unfortunately, those celebrations frequently turn deadly because of impaired drivers. That's why the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois State Police are partnering with numerous law enforcement agencies around the state this weekend and throughout St. Patrick's Day to remind everyone to act responsibly by designating a sober driver if they plan on consuming alcohol this St. Patrick's Day.

HardwareThe message is very simple: Keep the streets safe this St. Patrick's Day by drinking responsibly and designating a sober driver before heading to the local parade or pub. Don't risk arrest for driving under the influence.

Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that over the past five years, 851 people lost their lives in motor vehicles crashes during the St. Patrick's Day holiday. Out of that number, 327 were killed in crashes that involved a drunk driver (blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher). Over the past five years in Illinois, 26 people lost their lives in those motor vehicle crashes, and three of the fatalities involved a driver who had been drinking alcohol.

"There is no excuse for impaired driving. It is irresponsible, and it is deadly," said IDOT Traffic Safety Director Mike Stout. "St. Patrick's Day is supposed to be a time to celebrate Irish heritage and gather with friends, but it can quickly end in tragedy due to impaired driving. If you plan on drinking, do not rely on luck to keep you safe or to keep you out of trouble. Be responsible and designate a sober driver."

Unfortunately, impaired drivers are frequently present on Illinois roads, risking their lives and the lives of those with whom they share the road. During holiday weekends such as St. Patrick's Day, the risk can increase because of an even greater impaired-driving threat. To combat impaired driving, the Department of Transportation, state police, county and municipal police agencies are partnering to step up impaired-driving enforcement, with IDOT funding overtime hours that place more officers on the street.

"The Illinois State Police and local law enforcement will remain vigilant in their enforcement efforts over the St. Patrick's Day weekend," said ISP Director Larry G. Trent. "Individuals who drive while impaired will be arrested. If you are going to include alcohol in your celebration plans, designate a sober driver. Motorists are also reminded to buckle up and to obey the ‘move-over law' (Scott's Law) to ensure a safe holiday weekend."

Beginning today and continuing around St. Patrick's Day, IDOT is making available over $500,000 in federal highway safety dollars to fund additional roadside safety checks, saturation patrols and other impaired-driving countermeasures. 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.

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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 plenty of nonalcoholic 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 or family member to pick you up; 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.

  • Luck will not get you home safely this St. Patrick's Day. Designate your sober driver before the party begins.

  • For more information about the Division of Traffic Safety's impaired driving and safety campaigns, visit


[Text from Illinois Department of Transportation file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information]

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