In a recent study, investigators identified driver impairment by alcohol as a leading factor in wrong-way driving collisions. Illinois is looking at increasing penalties for wrong way drunk drivers in an effort to prevent more of those accidents from occurring. The new law would make wrong way driving an aggravating factor in an Illinois DUI conviction, requiring a much stricter attitude when it comes to jail time.
The hope is that additional effort will make people think twice about wrong way driving when they’re drunk… except, intoxicated people aren’t the best at thinking.
Fatal motor vehicle accidents have steadily declined over the past decade, but the number of fatal wrong-way collisions has remained essentially unchanged, averaging about 360 lives lost per year in about 260 fatal wrong-way collisions. Moreover, although the total number of highway deaths has fallen, the percentage of deaths caused by drivers impaired by alcohol has remained unchanged over the past decade.
- In 2015, a total of 10,228 people died in accidents involving drivers impaired by alcohol, accounting for 31 percent of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the United States.64
- In 2000, a total of 12,892 people died in accidents involving drivers impaired by alcohol, accounting for 31 percent of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities.
- As a result, the NTSB concludes that alcohol impairment continues to be present in about one-third of all fatal highway accidents, resulting in more than 10,000 deaths per year. The NTSB further concludes that new countermeasures to alcohol-impaired driving, as well as renewed emphasis at the federal, state, and local level, are needed.
MADD does endorse the new Illinois DUI penalty. But MADD is also one of the biggest advocates for ignition interlock devices (IIDs). Illinois already has an all-offender IID law, so perhaps there could be a bigger focus on enforcing those laws. NTSB reported an additional benefit in reducing repeat DWI offenses. According to one estimate, if all drivers with at least one alcohol-impaired driving conviction within the 3 years prior to the accident used zero-BAC interlock devices, approximately 1,100 deaths could have been prevented in 1 year.
The NTSB concludes that the installation of alcohol ignition interlocks on the vehicles of all DWI offenders would reduce accidents caused by alcohol-impaired drivers. A 2009 NHTSA report provides information about strategies that policymakers and safety advocates may use to maximize the likelihood that individuals who are ordered to install interlocks comply with the law. Strategies found to be likely to increase compliance include establishing an offender monitoring program, funding the installation of ignition interlock systems when necessary, and presenting the ignition interlock as an alternative to a more restrictive penalty, such as house arrest or transdermal monitoring.