Is Illinois tough enough on drunk drivers?

Residents in Chicago and throughout Illinois should know how the state is working to protect them against the dangers presented by drunk drivers.

It should be no surprise to anyone in Illinois that operating a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol is dangerous. For decades now, public awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving has been evident. Yet, despite the efforts of consumer groups and lawmakers alike, many people continue to make the choice to drive after drinking.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 3,800 lives were lost on Illinois roads between 2003 and 2012 due to drunk drivers. Nationally, just under two percent of drivers admit to operating vehicles after having too much to drink. In Illinois, that number is 2.2 percent and it is hard to know how many people make such a choice but do not admit to it.

Knowing that drunk driving continues to be a problem that puts innocent people at risk, it is important for people to know what Illinois is doing to crack down and improve safety.

New law started in 2016

The Chicago Tribune reported that the state changed its approach to keeping drunk drivers off the road starting this year. In the past, drivers were faced with a mandatory 30-day period in which they could not drive any vehicle at all. What happened during this time was that many people chose to ignore this and drive illegally. Some of these people even drove without insurance, only exacerbating the risk to others.

Now, people with DUIs may be able to skip this mandatory no-drive period by installing a special device in their vehicles to monitor their alcohol levels. The goal here is as much to prevent illegal driving as it is to allow people the right to drive. Whether or not this will improve public safety is yet to be seen.

Driving privilege consequences

Even drivers arrested for a first DUI offense may lose the right to drive for some time in Illinois. The Secretary of State published a 2016 Illinois DUI Fact Book that notes even a person with a blood alcohol content below the legal limit for intoxication may experience a license suspension. This can happen if other evidence indicates intoxication.

For most drivers, a BAC of 0.08 percent is the threshold that determines sobriety or intoxication. However, for those with commercial driving licenses, the threshold is 0.04 percent. People who drive school buses or who are 20 years old or younger are not allowed to have any trace of alcohol in their systems while driving.

A first offense can result in the loss of driving privileges for up to six months. Drivers can apply for a special Monitoring Device Driving Permit. If approved, they may be able to drive during that time with the use of an ignition interlock device.

The Illinois State Police notes that in addition to the potential inability to drive, people may face incarceration or required community service for DUI convictions. A third or subsequent offense is treated as a felony.

Help for accident victims

While the state continues its efforts to crack down on drunk drivers, accidents sadly continue to happen. Anyone who has been injured or lost a loved one in such a crash should contact an attorney for help in seeking compensation.