Reporting John Cody
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CHICAGO (CBS) – Illinois safety officials have a new Labor Day mantra, as they try to stem the state’s rising highway death toll.
Illinois Department of Transportation safety chief Patrick O’Brien said Wednesday the theme of this year’s Labor Day weekend crackdown on drunk driving is “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.”
O’Brien said there will be increased enforcement of drunk driving laws by police officers like Chicago Police Officer Shawn Eltner, who demonstrated making a DUI arrest.
Eltner conducted a field sobriety test on a make-believe drunk, who explained he’d only had three beers, but had serious troubles walking heel-to-toe in a straight line, or touching his finger to his nose.
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The officer said impaired drivers usually say they had “two beers,” when stopped for drunk driving.
He said one common tip-off that a driver is drunk is that his or her headlights are off at night.
Eltner said impaired drivers often leave clues to their situation right inside the car: “beer cans, wine bottles, cups with tequila, open cannabis in the console – it’s very common.”
O’Brien said he thinks warm weather has encouraged more driving this year, and thus boosted the year-to-date fatalities to 620 so far this year, compared to 571 at this point in 2011.
“It’s been one of those years where I think we had our first motorcycle fatality in January. It was a really warm winter. We have a lot more people out driving. You know, when the weather’s nice, people drive more,” he said.
O’Brien said Illinois State Police and 350 local law enforcement agencies will be out this weekend, conducting a combined 200 random roadblocks – commonly called roadside safety checks – as well as performing a combined 750 saturation patrols for drunk drivers, and those not wearing seat belts.