Nearly four times as many Illinois motorists lost their licenses in 1986 than in 1985 as a result of a new, stricter law concerning arrests for driving under the influence (DUI).
Secretary of State Jim Edgar said statistics show that changing the law has achieved its goal of a “swift and certain deterrent” to drunk driving. “The threat of losing driving privileges has been shown to be the most effective way to deter drunk driving,” he added.
Statewide, drivers license suspensions and revocations totalled 46,978 in 1986 compared with 13,047 in 1985. In DeKalb County, the number of suspensions and revocations rose 478 percent from 87 in 1985 to 503 in 1986.
“Before 1986, fewer than a quarter of DUI offenders lost driving privileges despite penalties provided by the old law,” Edgar said. “During its first year, 92 percent of those arrested under the new law had their drivers licenses suspended or revoked,” he added.
Scott Ealy, press spokesman for Edgar, said the new law has added a new way for drivers to lose their licenses. As of 1986, drivers who test at .10 percent or higher for blood alcohol content receive a license suspension within 46 days after their arrest, Ealy said. In the meantime, they can appeal their suspension by going to court, he added.
Other ways drivers can lose their driving privileges is to be arrested and convicted for DUI, to refuse to take the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) test or to cause an accident resulting in a fatality or “serious bodily injury,” Ealy said. The serious bodily injury is determined by the court, case by case, he said. In the past, these three circumstances were the only ways drivers had their licenses revoked or suspended, Ealy said.
Changes in length of suspension for certain offenses also have been adopted. The new law calls for first-time offenders who fail the BAC test to be given a three-month suspension, and a 12-month suspension for repeat offenders, Ealy said. Drivers who refuse to take the BAC test are given six-month and 12-month suspensions for first-time and repeat offenders respectively, he said. Under the old law “all those who refused the BAC were suspended for six months,” Ealy added.
Also affected by the new law are those issued Judicial Driving Permits (JDPs). JDPs only will be issued to motorists 30 days after their suspension takes effect, whereas before they were issued at any time, Ealy said. JDPs are given out to offenders who lose their license, but convince a judge they need special permission to drive only for important reasons such as to go to work.
Edgar also said statistics show most arrested DUI offenders have .15 to .19 percent blood alcohol content—enough alcohol to double the legal intoxication limit of .10 percent. “The average arrested drunk driver is almost double (legally) drunk,” Edgar said.
Statistics from Edgar’s office show those arrested for DUI to be 88 percent male and 78 percent first-time offenders. In addition, the average age of the DUI offender is about 32 years old, but the age group with the most DUI incidents is 21 to 24 years old.
Any new administrative costs, such as court costs and paperwork, as a result of the new law can be offset by another law which allows counties to raise fees added to DUI fines to $30 from $5, Edgar said. Furthermore, the new law has withstood court challenges, and it should be found constitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court, he said.
“We think the new law is spurring a change in public attitudes,” Edgar said. “Throughout Illinois motorists appear to be taking a more cautious and sensible attitude toward alcohol and drugs,” he said.