State police and other agencies will be out in force to crack down on drunken driving over the Labor Day weekend.
"Labor Day has become one of the deadliest holidays nationwide for alcohol-related fatalities," said John Pastuovic, spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Great Lakes regional office in Chicago.
In 2004, 51 percent of all traffic fatalities over the Labor Day weekend were alcohol-related, he said.
There were 16,855 alcohol-related deaths in traffic crashes across the country for all of last year, which is nearly unchanged during the last decade, according to data compiled by the national agency.
Illinois State Police, along with local law enforcement agencies, will aggressively be targeting impaired drivers, according to agency spokesman Master Sgt. Rick Hector.
In a statewide campaign that began Aug. 18 and centers on the Labor Day weekend, 248 agencies will team up with state police to conduct 220 roadside safety checks and nearly 1,400 saturation patrols, Hector said. That means 1,600 special patrols over the two-week campaign.
With federal funds used to hire back officers on overtime, the agencies will try to get drunken drivers off the roads before they are involved in a fatal crash, Hector said.
This year, state police also have 42 motorcycle patrol officers who will be working the holiday enforcement details, Hector said.
Last year, there were 19 fatal crashes in Illinois during the Labor Day weekend, according to Hector. On average, about half of fatal crashes are alcohol-related, he said.
"We'll be hitting the roads and hitting them hard," said Sgt. Bill Emery of District 10, Pesotum.
Labor Day is the last major holiday of the summer season and traditionally, some people consume alcohol and then drive, Emery said.
"They are not taking the responsibility of finding a designated driver," Emery said.
Motorists also need to obey other laws, including speed limits, safety restraint laws, proper lane usage and avoid following too close or aggressive driving, Emery said.
State police and local agencies are conducting roadside safety checks to look for speeding and other violations, he said.
One such safety check was conducted at Neil Street and Knollwood Drive Saturday night and early Sunday, Emery said.
One arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol was made, along with four other alcohol-related tickets being issued.
State Police Director Larry Trent said law enforcement officers will have no tolerance for drunken drivers.
"We will be taking a focused approach to identify and arrest anyone who decides to drink and drive," Trent said. "The message is simple and clear: If you drink and drive, you will face the consequences."
Don McNamara, Great Lakes Region administrator for the National Highway Traffic Administration, said the agency is conducting a first-of-its-kind, multistate crackdown on impaired driving, focusing on what they call "enforcement corridors," which are certain highways that connect communities and states. In Illinois, they include Interstates 90, 94, 80, 70, 74, 65 and 465 in the Chicago area.
Impaired drivers will be taken directly to jail, according to McNamara.
They could lose their license, time from their jobs and face high fines and court costs as well as jail time, McNamara said.
Refusing a blood-alcohol test means losing a driver's license on the spot and having a vehicle impounded, he said.