By Anna Lothson
Oak Park police are reminding residents to think twice before getting behind the wheel this holiday season. They're also reminding people about the importance of driving safely and wearing seatbelts.
According to a village news release, Oak Park police will intensify traffic enforcement through the weekend following Thanksgiving, with efforts focused on reducing accidents by arresting drunk drivers and ticketing anyone in a vehicle who is not wearing a seatbelt.
The Oak Park crackdown is part of a federally funded effort through the Illinois Department of Transportation's Division of Traffic Safety, which will help pay for off-duty officers to augment on-duty patrols. The enforcement effort runs concurrently with a media campaign that reminds motorists to "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" and "Click It or Ticket."
"Fastening a seatbelt takes only a second or two and costs you nothing. Not wearing a seatbelt, especially during this Thanksgiving period, will cost you a ticket at the very least, or even worse, your life," Oak Park Deputy Police Chief Anthony Ambrose said in the release. "The same applies when you have been drinking and choose to drive. We want all drivers and passengers to click it or expect a ticket, day and night. And if you don't drive sober, expect to get pulled over."
According to the release, the Illinois Department of Transportation has reported that the vast majority of Illinois drivers use seatbelts during the daytime, but far too many drivers and passengers still do not buckle up at night.
During the 2012 Thanksgiving holiday period, motor vehicle crashes in Illinois claimed nine lives and injured more than 700 individuals. Three of the deaths involved a drinking driver.
"I urge everyone driving on Oak Park and Illinois roadways this holiday season to drive carefully, do not drive impaired and, most importantly, buckle up each and every trip, night or day," Ambrose said. "Remember, the best defense against an impaired or distracted driver is a safety belt."
Police remind residents that designating a sober driver and not letting friends or family members drive drunk are the two most effective ways to avoid a crash or arrest for driving under the influence. They also urge remembering to promptly report drunk drivers you see on the roadways to law enforcement by pulling over and dialing 911.