State Police step up roadway patrols for Thanksgiving

Staff Report

PECATONICA, Ill. — Illinois State Police (ISP) and local law enforcement agencies throughout the state are gearing up for the beginning of the holiday travel period. The cooperative effort is aimed at stepping up enforcement patrols as the holiday driving season begins, to make the roads safe for all motorists.

Traditionally, the Thanksgiving holiday marks the beginning of the busy holiday driving period, and continues through the New Year. Beginning Wednesday, Nov. 23 through Sunday, Nov. 27, officials expect high traffic volume on interstates and roads throughout the region. Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 24, is expected to be the busiest. Illinois State Police are urging the motoring public to adhere to the rules of the road, particularly when drinking and driving are involved. Statistics have shown that fatal crashes increase on the interstates during the Thanksgiving holiday period.

“Although the number of crashes involving impaired drivers has significantly decreased over the years, a single life lost to drunk driving is one life too many, and we know that alcohol is a factor during the Thanksgiving holiday period,” said ISP Director Hiram Grau. “Troopers and local police officers will saturate the roads and interstates with targeted patrols to enforce ISP’s Fatal Four mission — with a special emphasis on impaired driving,” Grau stressed.

ISP statewide campaigns are targeting impaired drivers and are coordinating efforts with local police and sheriffs. The Thanksgiving holiday is one of the worst for fatal crashes involving alcohol, especially with college students and young adults involved.

The teenage driver is classified as the highest risk category for becoming involved in a driving fatality during the Thanksgiving holiday period. Over the last three years, teen and college-aged drivers and passengers have been involved in 55 percent of all fatal crashes that have occurred the day before Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving Day. Of the crashes that occurred on those days, teen and college-aged drivers and passengers accounted for 27 percent of the fatalities.

District 16 Commander, Lt. Martin Zamudio stated, “We will be out in force this holiday weekend focusing on making our roads safer . We simply ask that motorists focus on the same.”

During the enforcement period, officers will patrol the interstates, conduct roadside safety checks, and participate in other traffic enforcement details to identify ISP Fatal Four moving violations: Speeding, DUI, Seatbelts and Distracted Driving. Special emphasis will be placed on DUI enforcement, and holiday DUI patrols will be designated statewide. “Our number one goal is to reduce the number of fatalities on Illinois roads and highways, and motorists should think twice about driving responsibly before getting behind the wheel,” said ISP Division of Operations Col. Mark Piccoli. “Sobriety checkpoints will be enforced, and DUI violators risk arrests and severe penalties,” Piccoli added. Officials also stressed that fines have increased to $120 for texting while driving.

Motorists who consume alcohol should consider an alternative means of transportation. A DUI arrest can cost thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees, court costs, insurance fees, fines and jail time. A DUI arrest can blemish a driving record and result in a permanent criminal history record.

The ISP offers the following alternatives for those who choose to celebrate with alcohol:

• Do not drink and drive; designate a sober driver.

• Buckle up and make sure that all vehicle occupants are restrained.

• Pay attention to the weather and road conditions.

• Slow down and obey posted speed limits.

• Take extra precautions on rural roads with 55-mile per hour

• Avoid distractions such as cell phone use.

• Be extra alert around construction zones.

• Call local authorities if an unsafe driver is observed.

The “Click-It or Ticket” safety awareness campaign is well under way, encouraging motorists to buckle up. Officials urge motorists and out-of-state visitors to plan ahead, follow the rules of the road, and take the necessary safety precautions during this holiday driving season.

From the Nov. 23-29, 2011, issue

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