Highway toll bears a seasonal wake-up call
By Susan Frick Carlman firstname.lastname@example.org November 29, 2012 10:30PM
Susan_Carlman_01 Jonathan Miano / Staff Photographer Sun Publications 2009-02-09
Updated: January 1, 2013 6:09AM
Please forgive me if I step away from the seasonal merriment for just a moment.
The awful truth is that we’re coming up on a grim milestone: 900 roadway fatalities. That’s just since the first of the year. And just in Illinois.
It’s just way, way too much blood spilled on the pavement.
As of Wednesday morning, the Illinois Department of Transportation had counted 872 lives lost on the roads so far in 2012. The number had climbed by more than 330 funerals since I wrote four months ago about those overhead signs on area highways that keep track of the deaths. If the pace continues (it’s gut-wrenching to say, but it most likely will pick up over the traditionally tragedy-prone coming few weeks), we’ll have seen more than 950 people perish on the highways by year end.
This is some pretty horrible and senseless heartbreak.
Here in Naperville, police Sgt. Lou Cammiso says there have been four deaths, three involving cars and one a motorcycle, since the year began.
“The huge thing, obviously, with the advent of all these smart phones and stuff, is distracted driving,” he said. “I think we continue to see that causing most of our accidents, and of course alcohol is there too.”
Four is still too many — and the numbers are rising fast on the out-of-town roads many of us will travel over the next few weeks.
“Traffic fatalities had been on the decline for several years, but this year the number has risen sharply,” IDOT cautions on its website. “Please help us by driving defensively, buckling up, putting down your cell phone, slowing down in work zones, wearing the proper gear while motorcycling, and designating a sober driver if you have been drinking.”
That’s a lot of safety measures to take, but isn’t staying alive worth a little effort?
An interesting and timely initiative was launched last week by DuPage County State’s Attorney Bob Berlin. Designed to address the problematic convergence of booze rapidly dissipating in the human body with the right of potentially drunk drivers to refuse roadside Breathalyzer tests when they’re pulled over for driving badly, the new protocols enable cops to gauge how sauced a motorist really is, before he or she sobers up.
The program, which could yet sustain a legal challenge or two, allows officers to take suspected drunk drivers to the nearby police department, where a private phlebotomist will draw a blood sample from the suspect.
Along with fortifying the prosecution of truly impaired motorists, “it will also free up our patrol officers from spending hours in a hospital with the offender and allow them to get back on the streets faster,” Berlin said in a press release.
It’s hard to mount an argument that either of those developments would be a bad thing. The fact is that even on a sunny morning in the middle of May, there are some pretty poor drivers out there.
Is it just me, or have you also noticed that people now run red lights with a startling impunity they lacked in the past? It’s pretty scary to see someone blasting across your path when you’ve got a green light.
“The city of Naperville could make a lot of money by enforcing the speeding laws,” reader and resident Gerri Mize told me in an email, noting that drivers appear oblivious to posted limits. “They think the law doesn’t apply to them. And they even do it when they have their kids in the car.”
There’s no question that the roads can be dangerous places. I used to smirk inwardly when Mom cautioned to each of her kids, as we came of driving age, “You must drive as if every other person on the road is out to kill you.”
Now I just find the thought sobering.
Buckle up, please, and be very, very careful out there.