Metro-East News

16 people died on Illinois roads over New Year’s last year

Authorities statewide are encouraging Illinoisans to stop traffic fatalities on New Year’s Eve by reminding drivers to stay sober and pay attention to the road.

The holiday period can be one of the “most dangerous times” to be on the roads, said Priscilla Tobias, director of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Office of Program Development.

In the last five years, 49 people died in crashes in Illinois during the New Year’s holiday period, according to IDOT, and 20 died in crashes involving at least one driver who had been drinking.

During the New Year holiday last year, six people lost their lives as a result of crashes involving at least one driver who tested positive for alcohol. A total of 16 people lost their lives on Illinois roads during that period.

Illinois State Police Director Leo P. Schmitz says driving under the influence remains a major contributor to fatal crashes during the holidays.

“DUI remains one of the top contributing factors in fatal crashes around the holidays,” Schmitz said. “ISP Troopers will be conducting roadside safety checks and roving patrols, looking for and arresting intoxicated motorists. Remember, drive sober or get pulled over.”

Illinois State Police says its officers and other law enforcement agencies will conduct roadside safety checks, seat belt enforcement zones and other patrols with an emphasis on late-night hours.

Traffic fatalities in Illinois passed the 1,000 mark this year for the first time since 2008, according to IDOT. Through Dec. 27, 1,055 people died in crashes on Illinois roads. A total of 998 people died in crashes in 2015.

Here are some tips that could save a life:

▪ Don’t let friends and family members who have been drinking get behind the wheel.

▪ Pre-program taxi company numbers into your phone so you can quickly dial them up after you’ve been drinking, or use a ride-sharing service.

▪ Designate a sober driver or use your community’s designated driver program.

▪ Promptly report drunk drivers to law enforcement.

▪ Wear your seat belt and make sure passengers are buckled in as well.

▪ Never use your cell phone while driving.