New Data Show Drop in Illinois Alcohol-Related Traffic Fatalities, But Budget Cuts to Alcohol Treatment Put Gains at Risk, Advocates Say

Illinois alcohol-related traffic fatalities declined sharply between 2007-2008.

(Chicago, IL) – August 26, 2010. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), Division of Traffic Safety released data yesterday showing a lower number of alcohol-involved motor vehicle fatalities in Illinois between 2007 and 2008, while health advocates warned that substance abuse treatment budget cuts put those gains at risk.

According to data from IDOT and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of motor vehicle fatalities involving a drinking driver declined modestly but steadily from 2002 through 2008, culminating with a 16% decrease between 2007 and 2008.

The number of fatalities involving a legally impaired driver (0.08 blood alcohol content and above) also declined from 2002 through 2008, and the total number of fatalities decreased by 77 between 2007 and 2008, a reduction of about 18%.

The new data are being hailed by a top Illinois alcohol and drug prevention and treatment advocacy organization.

“We are thrilled with the new data that reveal fewer lives have been lost on Illinois roads due to alcohol,” said Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) President Pamela Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, however, added a cautionary note.

“A key strategy to push those numbers lower is adequate funding for alcohol prevention and treatments services, but Illinois has cut funding for these services by 30% in the last two years,” said Rodriguez. “If fewer people get treatment, alcohol-related fatalities will likely start to climb again.”

The announcement comes as the Illinois State Police join local law enforcement agencies throughout Illinois for the Labor Day You Drink & Drive, You Lose campaign.

“We are very gratified that in recent years Illinois has seen reductions in the number of fatalities caused by impaired drivers,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig.  “…[W]e are extremely pleased that fewer people are driving impaired and more people are wearing their safety belts.”

“Statistics tell us your chances of being involved in an alcohol related crash or fatal crash increases dramatically at night,” said Acting Illinois State Police Director Jonathon Monken.

The Illinois State Police will focus its efforts on DUI and seat belt enforcement during nighttime details throughout the Labor Day weekend, according to Monken.

The reduction in the Illinois’ alcohol-related fatality rate, the ratio of alcohol-involved fatalities to total annual vehicle miles traveled (VMT), also has dropped. This rate has been above 0.50 for several years in Illinois, but fell to 0.48 in 2007 and to a low of 0.41 in 2008.

According to the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association, Illinois spends almost 15% of its budget – nearly $5 billion – dealing with the consequences of addiction.  Less than one tenth of one percent of state spending goes to addiction treatment and prevention.

“We cannot hope to see further reductions in alcohol-related fatalities, nor begin to put a dent in the other consequences of substance use disorders, until Illinois makes a serious public policy commitment to dealing with addiction as our number one public health issue,” says Rodriguez.


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