CHICAGO (STMW) – St. Patrick’s revelers beware — the Illinois State Police, as well as many municipal police agencies, are cracking down on impaired drivers this weekend and the consequences for getting caught driving drunk are significant, for drivers and party hosts alike.

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Illinois State Police (ISP) have partnered with more than 150 law enforcement agencies this St. Patrick’s Day holiday to remind everyone to act responsibly, buckle up and designate a sober driver before the parties begin.

According to data from the Illinois Department of Transportation, during the past five years in Illinois, 15 people died in motor vehicle crashes on St. Patrick’s Day. Seven of those fatalities involved a driver who had been drinking alcohol. During the same timeframe, a total of 1,261 people were injured in St. Patrick’s Day crashes. Last year on St. Patrick’s Day in Illinois, one person died in a crash but it did not involve a drinking driver. (Fatalities occurring on March 17 from midnight through 11:59 p.m.)

“The Illinois State Police and local law enforcement will increase patrols during the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in an effort to prevent alcohol-related tragedies,” Interim ISP Director Patrick Keen said. “Individuals who drive impaired will be arrested. If alcohol will be part of your celebration, designate a sober driver.”

The enforcement campaign began Friday night and will continue through the weekend following March 17, a release from IDOT said. An estimated $800,000 in federal highway safety dollars to Illinois will fund roadside safety checks, saturation patrols and other impaired driving countermeasures along with nighttime safety belt and other patrols. The safety belt patrols are utilized to further improve the late-night safety belt usage rate. In addition, 157 local law enforcement agencies are participating in a combined total of more than 500 roadside safety checks, safety belt enforcement zones and other enforcement details during the entire St. Patrick’s Day period.

State police and IDOT remind Illinoisans that they can be held liable and prosecuted if someone who is served alcohol at their party is involved in an impaired driving crash.

Partiers are reminded to designate a sober driver before the party begins and give that person their car keys.

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