In 2008, more than 13,000 people lost their lives as a result of crashes related to drunk driving. In that same year, more than 400 people died in alcohol-related crashes in Illinois, accounting for almost 40 percent of the state's crash fatalities. While all 50 states have statutory offenses directed at those who drive under the influence of alcohol, Illinois has instituted statutory and program interventions that have effectively lowered alcohol-related deaths in the state.
Illinois DUI-related laws have been in existence since 1958. The state's DUI programs are as diverse as they are effective. From the state's Faces of DUI video to the DUI Victim Wall to three-tiered licensing and holiday alcohol-testing programs to the "You Drink & Drive. You Lose" campaign, Illinois' programs offer diverse dissemination of information. And as recently as January 2009, the state legislation enacted laws that doubled criminal sanctions for drunk drivers.
As a result of these intensive interventions, Illinois reports that DUI fatalities are down 16 percent in the state. In 2008, the state reported 434 drunk-driver-related deaths. While the numbers are down, drunk driving is still a major issue in many areas, including Chicago and Cook County, which reported more than 400 "Use It & Lose It/Zero Tolerance" violations. With a landscape and culture that supports casual drinking, it is not all together surprising that Chicago, considered one of the best bar towns in the world, has a drunk driver problem.
To prevent drunken driving, drinkers and their friends and families must take common sense approaches. When drinking, consume responsibly. Hosts should also act responsibly by not letting patrons or guests drink in excess. If you are impaired in any way, either have a designated driver or use a designated driver program to help you and friends return safely home.
Many Chicagoans will be affected by a drunk driver. Drunk drivers have significant impact on our community. Victims and their families may be left with medical bills, lost wages, serious injuries or even funeral costs. While some remedies may be found through the Crime Victims Compensation Program, a drunk driver's victims may need experienced counsel to help maneuver the legal avenues that best protect their rights and interests.