The work of police departments around Illinois to reduce drunk driving is highlighted in a new survey.
The Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists surveyed departments to determine how many DUI arrests are made, and to give special recognition to the most productive agencies and officers. Rita Kreslin, the organization's executive director, says police face dangerous situations when stopping a suspected drunk driver.
"Not only can you get a driver that's belligerent, but there's a lot of risk involved because you never know who's driving behind that wheel," she says. "We commend our officers every year, let them know that they're doing good work, to keep up the good fight and that what they do makes a difference."
According to the survey, the Decatur Police Department ranked first in the state with 477 arrests in 2014, followed by Springfield and Naperville. Because of its size, Chicago is in its own category, and the survey found 3,300 DUI arrests - about two percent fewer than 2013.
Kreslin says education and awareness are crucial to stemming drunk driving, and she contends it's always safer and cheaper to find alternative transportation when drinking alcohol than to face the possible consequences of a DUI arrest. But she adds many people still don't get the message.
"The average drunk driver, they say, drives 80 times before they actually get caught," she says. "They get brave because they're doing it so often and eventually it's either a cop that's going to stop them, a tree or maybe even a small child crossing the street."
The Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists organizes Victim Impact Panels that involve hundreds of DUI defendants in Illinois each month. Kreslin says victims of drunk-driving accidents meet with offenders to share their stories.
"Many times, victims have lost a loved one and they're sharing the story of how the drunk driving crash happened," she says. "Many times the offender is telling the story of how he took the life of someone or she took the life of someone because of poor choices and decisions they made."
Kreslin says presentations also are held at schools, businesses and law enforcement agencies to encourage prevention and illustrate the consequences of impaired driving.