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Drunk driving is one of the biggest threats to highway safety in the United States. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 9,878 people died in drunk driving accidents in 2011 — an average of one DUI fatality every 53 minutes. NHTSA also determined that, on average, alcohol-related crashes injure one person every 90 seconds in the United States.

In Illinois, drunk driving accidents claimed the lives of 297 people in 2010. Even though 2010's numbers represented a nearly 40 percent drop in the drunk driving death rate since 2000, fatalities are still far too high. This sentiment is even more true when you consider the fact that nearly every drunk driving death could have been prevented had the at-fault driver been responsible enough to realize that he or she was too impaired to drive safely.

Researchers are advancing technology that could help significantly reduce drunk driving fatalities. For years, some convicted drunk drivers have had to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles. Ignition interlock devices are essentially mini-breathalyzers — drivers must blow into the device to prove that they are sober before the car will start. Considering how prevalent drunk driving accidents are, government officials and safety advocates are calling for expanded use of alcohol detection technology.

Currently, nearly all states give judges the option of ordering ignition interlock devices for some drunk drivers. However, only 17 states require ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers, including first-time offenders. (In Illinois, first-time DUI offenders are allowed to drive during their suspension period if they agree to have an interlock device installed.) The National Transportation Safety Board thinks that the rest of the country should follow these 17 states - the agency recently called on states to require ignition interlock devices for all convicted drunk drivers.

In addition, the NTSB called for continued research into technology called "driver alcohol detection system for safety." DADSS technology uses less intrusive touch- or breath-based testing to determine whether a driver is intoxicated. Once the technology is more refined — and once drivers get used to the idea of pre-trip alcohol testing — it could be installed as standard equipment in all new cars. The NTSB estimates that widespread use of DADSS technology could prevent more than 7,000 drunk driving deaths each year.

Illinois drunk driving accidents

Drunk driving accident victims in Illinois should know that they have rights. Whenever an accident is caused by another person's negligence — and drunk driving certainly counts as negligence — injured victims can seek financial compensation by pursuing personal injury lawsuits. In fatal drunk driving accidents, the victim's survivors can pursue wrongful death actions.

In addition, accident victims may be able to pursue "dram shop" actions against the establishments that sold liquor to the drunk driver. In Illinois, it is illegal for bars to serve alcohol to visibly intoxicated patrons.

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