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Illinois Helps Lead Nation in Drunk Driving Prevention

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Each day, almost 30 people are killed in the U.S. by drunk drivers. This unsettling statistic has states stepping up their game in taking action against drunk drivers. Illinois is doing its part, and other states are beginning to take notice of the state’s success. With increased sobriety checkpoints and law enforcement, the state’s zero-tolerance policies are working to keep motorists safe, with the results to prove it.

This year MADD (Mother’s Against Drunk Driving) rated Illinois a “five star state” in its Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving report. This top safety rating comes after the All-offender Ignition Interlock Law passed in 2009 which requires first-time offenders to use an ignition interlock device to prove their sobriety before getting behind the wheel again.iid

An ignition interlock device, or IID, is similar to a breathalyzer; it is connected to the driver’s vehicle and allows the engine to be started only once the driver breathes into the device and sobriety is confirmed. With the law in place, incidences of drunk driving have decreased, getting the attention of the media and raising awareness in other states looking to implement their own safety laws and actions.

Additional sobriety checkpoints have also been implemented in Illinois, and new technology may now be able to aid the state in its quest to keep motorists safe. A new tool is being used at California’s sobriety checkpoints to aid officers in detecting not only alcohol on the breath of drivers, but also any drugs that have been used. Officers equipped with this instrument are showing that they’re able to greatly decrease the number of impaired motorists on the road and increase safety for everyone else. Oral swabs are also being tested, but are a bit more tricky.

MADD is backing the new technologies, but not everyone feels so optimistic about these methods. Both tests require the driver’s consent, but the oral swabs contain the driver’s DNA; some privacy groups fear that it may be stored and used for later, unrelated purposes.

Criminal defense lawyers also fear that pulled-over drivers will be confused by being offered a voluntary test, which could lead to accidental self-incrimination. If, in any case, the driver will not take the breathalyzer or oral swab and blood work is offered and also refused, the officer can take the offender in for more testing or jail time. Either way, the offender is off the street.

The use of both tests may help officers get impaired motorists off the road, but in the meantime, Illinois is doing a great job keeping up without the technology. If these tools can be used in conjunction with the efforts already taking place, Illinois will remain a national leader in drunk driving prevention.

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