Years ago, while driving south along Washington Street at night, I was flagged along with a line of other motorists into the DuPage Children’s Museum parking lot. I remember my trepidation as the police officer flashed his light into my car and peppered me with questions about my whereabouts and if I had consumed alcohol that evening.
Having come from a late-night volleyball game, our team playing in the dreaded graveyard time slot, I was quickly dismissed and allowed to go on my way — unlike some Wednesday night revelers.
Over the last several decades, there is much more awareness of the risks and responsibilities involved with driving after drinking alcohol. As a result, vehicle accidents due to drunk driving have been dramatically reduced: down 53 percent. Still, each year, about 10,000 people’s lives are lost due to drunk driving.
In an effort to completely eliminate substance impaired driving accidents, the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that states lower the level that constitutes drunken driving from 0.08 to 0.05 blood alcohol content.
If a motorist is at a 0.08 level or more, the law states that you are impaired, according to Naperville Police Sgt. Al Trotsky. In some instances even with a blood alcohol content between the limits of 0.05 to 0.07, a driver can be charged with impaired driving.
“From 0.05 to 0.07 the burden of proof is on the police officer to prove that a motorist is impaired in such a way that he or she could not operate a motor vehicle,” he added.
Blood alcohol content can vary slightly in individuals due to tolerance, gender, and body weight. If the NTSB recommendation would become Illinois law, a women who weighs about 120 pounds and consumes two alcoholic drinks in one hour would be over the limit as well as a 180-pound man who consumes three alcoholic drinks in one hour.
While the American Medical Association has come out in support of the lower limits, not surprisingly, the American Beverage Institute called the recommendation “ludicrous,” saying that the lower limits do little to discourage hard-core drunk drivers while it further restricts the moderate consumption of alcohol by responsible adults.
The Naperville Police Department ranked second among Illinois law enforcement agencies for the most arrests based on the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists’ annual survey with 576 DUI arrests last year down from 622 the previous year.
Trotsky said that “due to improved community education, we are seeing less DUIs because people are making smarter choices, like using designated drivers.”
While the high arrest record doesn’t necessary mean that Naperville has more inebriated drivers, the department definitely has gone on the offensive, adding in extra police especially at celebration times such as St. Patrick’s Day and Fourth of July.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the most dangerous days for drunk driving deaths occur between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. The early hours of Thanksgiving morning are among the most dangerous and seem to be getting worse. Known as “Blackout Wednesday” it’s a time when pre-holiday merriment can equate with excessive amounts of alcohol.
Naperville Police has been vigilant in conducting roadside safety checks throughout the summer months. Sgt. Trotsky said “We pick high volume areas that are consistent with the probability of motorists being impaired.”
“It’s not just an enforcement tool, but an educational tool,” he added
Over the last hurrah weekend of summer, one thing you can bet on for sure here in Naperville, the police will be out in force making sure those traveling through our city are driving responsibly.
Cathy Janek, who has lived in Naperville since 1986, writes about transportation in the city. To offer comments and tips, email her at email@example.com. Visit napersun.com for a complete list of shuttle locations and times.