Pittsfield- 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 on Wednesday, November 21 through Sunday, November 25, officials expect high traffic volume on interstates and roads throughout the region. Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 22, 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.   Thanksgiving is one of the most popular holidays where driving related incidents involving alcohol fatally impact college students and young adults.

District 20 Commander, Captain, Bob Elliott advises, the holiday season brings increased travel on Illinois roadways as millions hit the road for family gatherings, shopping excursions and celebrations. Unfortunately, mixed among the holiday cheer is mourning for those who die in Illinois highway crashes during the peak holiday travel periods. The decisions drivers make have an effort on not only themselves, but also their families, friends and those around them. Troopers in District 20 will again be participating in the Operation C.A.R.E. / Drive Sober campaign. “During the holiday weekend we will increase manpower, and troopers will take a focused approach to identify and arrest anyone who decides to drink and drive,” said Captain Elliott.

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% of all fatal crashes that have occurred the day before and Thanksgiving Day.  Of the crashes that occurred on those days, teen and college aged drivers and passengers accounted for 27% of the fatalities.

During the enforcement period, officers will patrol the interstates, conduct road side 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 Captain Elliott, “Sobriety checkpoints will be enforced and DUI violators risk arrests and severe penalties,” Elliott added.  Officials also stressed that fines have increased to $120.00 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 properly 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 speed limits
  • Avoid distractions such as cell phone use
  • Be extra alert around construction zones
  • Call local authorities if an unsafe driver is observed

The Illinois Department of Transportation is also reminding motorists to buckle up through the “Click-It or Ticket” safety awareness campaign.  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.

Information provided by Mike Kindhart with the Illinois State Police