DUI accidents hurt many

According to state-by-state statistics compiled by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Illinois ranks right in the middle of the states when it comes to the percentage of total motor vehicle fatalities caused by drunk driving. Statistics, though, cannot capture the personal impact of each DUI accident.

Illinois numbers

In 2010, the latest year of complete statistics in MADD's report, 278 people died in alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents on Illinois roads. This figure represents 30 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities in the state that year. While the proportion of alcohol-related fatalities declined by 4.8 percent from 2009, the number is still striking.

Statistics on repeat DUI are not encouraging. Close to 50,000 drivers were charged with third-time DUI offenses in Illinois in 2010, and over 5,600 were charged with a fifth offense. A survey of alcohol use included in the MADD report does not inspire hope for improvement, as teens and even pre-teens report consuming alcoholic beverages. Among young people aged 12 to 20, 28.1 percent reported that they had used alcohol recently, within the past month; and nearly one fifth of those in this age group, 19.4 percent, reported binge drinking in the past month.

MADD does take note that drunk driving numbers are improving since Illinois put into effect a law requiring ignition interlock for everyone convicted of DUI.

Accidents continue on state roads

All too often the news contains accounts of DUI accidents. For just one example, a recent drunk driving accident in Steger was reported in the Chicago Tribune. A 19-year-old driver hit another vehicle in a head-on collision at an intersection. Her 2001 Mercury Mountaineer struck a 2005 Chevrolet Trailblazer, seriously injuring the Trailblazer's 26-year-old driver.

The Trailblazer driver was taken to a hospital and found to have a broken leg and a broken vertebra. He was paralyzed from the waist down as a result of the back fracture.

Prosecutors said that the 19-year-old's blood alcohol level was measured at 0.117, well above the Illinois legal limit of 0.08. She was charged with aggravated DUI about two weeks after the accident.

Each accident like this one has its own lifelong consequences. When someone is seriously hurt or killed by a drunk driver, the lives of everyone involved will change.

Individuals who have been harmed in a motor vehicle accident can seek compensation by filing a personal injury claim. An attorney can help a motorist who is injured by a drunk driver to sue for recovery of medical expenses, lost wages and even pain and suffering.