Drunk driving fatalities down in 20 years since Illinois DUI law

Illinois implemented its 0.08 DUI legislation 20 years ago and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) teamed up with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists at the Illinois State Fair to remind motorists of the law.

“Illinois' 0.08 law is a vital part of the effort to end drunk driving on Illinois roads,” said IDOT Director Priscilla Tobias in a news release. “Alcohol-impaired motor vehicle crash fatalities have declined significantly over the last two decades, but we are nowhere near making drunk driving a thing of the past.”

The law took effect July 2, 1997. Illinois was the 15th state to implement such a law. Today, all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico enforce a legal limit of 0.08.

The number of drunk driving deaths in Illinois has decreased by about 43 percent since the law was enacted. The year before it took effect, 534 people died in DUI crashes involving at least one driver who was at or over the 0.08 level. In 2015, more than 300 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes in Illinois.

The law was passed due in part to the work of George and Marilyn Murphy of Jacksonville, who lost their 24-year-old daughter, Kellie Murphy Wheatley, to a drunk driver on July 4, 1984.

“Illinois' 0.08 law is one of the greatest lifesaving pieces of legislation to become law,” George Murphy said in the news release. “Today, more people decide against getting behind the wheel after drinking, which has prevented countless tragedies.”

Law enforcement is trying to remind motorists about the law as Labor Day approaches and enforcement ramps up through a “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign. Motorists will be seeing roadside safety checks throughout Illinois from August 21 through September.

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz is a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet. Originally from Romeoville, Ill., he joined The Herald-News in 2017 and mostly covers Will County government, politics, education and more. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree from Northwestern University.