If you plan on drinking without a designated driver, may we suggest the following? Take a few deep breaths … and imagine having to take one deep breath into a high-tech gizmo every time you start your engine. Beginning Jan. 1, first-time DUI suspects who want to drive during their suspension are
required to install in their vehicles a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device. This prevents drivers from operating the vehicle if their breath sample registers .05 or higher—a level that can be reached after just one or two drinks.
But that's not all. Drivers who refuse to take a breath test when they have been pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence will automatically have their license suspended for a year (six months for those who fail the test). "This is a big deal, as many lawyers suggest you take a pass on the Breathalyzer," said Stacy Vermylen, director of the LF/LB Underage Drinking Coalition. The goal of the new state law: To prevent repeat DUI offenses.
The Lake Forest Police Department makes 60 some DUI arrests each year. There is a growing problem among repeat offenders, Deputy Chief Glenn Burmeister told GazeboNews. "We are making more felony arrests for DUI, that meaning we are arresting for driving while revoked or suspended for a DUI or repeat DUI offenses," he said.
Annually, about 50,000 drivers are arrested for DUI in Illinois, according to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. It is an expensive offense. The website states that "convicted DUI offenders face an average cost in Illinois of approximately $15,000. This includes costs associated with obtaining and maintaining high-risk auto insurance; court and legal fees; potential income loss; and driver's license reinstatement."
But a DUI conviction's monetary price is nothing compared to the loss of life incurred in drunken-driving crashes. The 2008 DUI Fact Book reports 17,000 people lost their lives in drunken-driving crashes nationwide in 2006, or one fatality every 31 minutes. This week is especially perilous. In the last two weeks of December, nearly four of every 10 fatalities involve alcohol-impaired crashes, reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The group also said 21- to 24-year-old drivers are involved in more alcohol-impaired fatal crashes than are people from any other age group.
Many teenagers also are getting into cars they should avoid like a house on fire. A recent Illinois Youth Survey of teenagers in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff found 25% of 12th graders reported driving while under the influence of alcohol or marijuana, while 36% reported riding in a car driven by another teenager who had been drinking or using drugs. And 20% of 10th and 12th graders said they had ridden in a vehicle that was driven by an adult who had been drinking alcohol or using drugs.
What? You only had one glass of chardonnay with dinner?
"Kids get mixed signals when they see their parents drink and drive," said Betty Frank-Bailey, executive director of LEAD. "The child does not know if you had one drink or four drinks. They don't understand the variables that are in play that could impair your ability to drive–how many drinks you had, whether you had food in your stomach. You need to talk to them and set good examples so they understand that drinking does impair your ability when you drive."
So just what is a BAIID? Here is some information, according to a fact sheet on CyberDriverIllinois, the website for Secretary of State Jesse White:
- The DUI suspect must provide a breath sample into the BAIID before starting his or her vehicle and at random intervals throughout the travel time. The BAIID uses advanced technology to read the driver's Blood Alcohol Level.
- A BAIID is hooked up to the vehicle's ignition and prevents the
driver from starting the car if his or her breath sample registers .05
- If the breath sample is negative for alcohol, the driver will be able to start the car without incident.
The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators said DUI offenders must cover all costs associated
with the BAIID, which it said includes an installation fee of
approximately $100 and rental and monitoring fees of about $110 per
Want to learn more about why teens drink and use drugs, and get some ideas on how to help them make healthy choices? Plan to attend LEAD's upcoming workshop "What Teens Are Really Up To," which is planned for 9:45 a.m. Jan. 13 at the Gorton Community Center. The workshop is moderated by Dr. Heather Hale, a local psychologist who specializes in treating families and adolescents, and Jenny Edgington, a social worker serving grades 7 through 12 at Lake Forest and Lake Bluff public schools.
Want to know how many drinks is too many drinks? Here are a few websites that offer tools to measure blood alcohol content: