Despite Lower Traffic Fatalities, Alcohol Involved Crashes Hold - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Despite Lower Traffic Fatalities, Alcohol Involved Crashes Hold Steady Percentage

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Since 1994, the number of deaths on Illinois and Iowa roads has fallen.

Over that same time frame though, the percentage of deaths involving alcohol has remained consistent.

Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show our roads have gotten safer.

In Illinois, the number of deaths has fallen from 2,120 in 1994 to 918 in 2011.

In Iowa, total deaths fell from 668 in 1994, to 360 in 2011.

Yet during that time, deadly crashes involving alcohol remain stuck at around one third.

Illinois averages 37 percent of deadly crashes involving alcohol.

Iowa averages 29 percent.

The Iowa State Patrol says there isn't a magic bullet out there.

"We're making leaps and bounds, but we still have room to improve in Iowa," says Trooper Dan Loussaert.

He says things have improved during his 24 year career in law enforcement. Police have better technology to catch drunk drivers, and drivers are more aware of alcohol's dangers.

"People realize that it kills a lot of people and it's a bad choice if you choose to make that choice," says Loussaert.

Yet, nearly one third of traffic deaths in Iowa involve alcohol. Loussaert says getting to zero is very difficult.

"There's no magic wand where you can say well we're going to really crack down and we're going to ten fold the penalties, that doesn't mean the problem is going to go away."

"We think of her every day," says Rick Dettman. His daughter Samantha Martin was killed by a drunk driver outside LeClaire in 2009. The statistics leave him grasping for more solutions.

"Drinking has just got to be limited, I don't know who's going to stop it, if it's the tavern owners who need to be more vigilant about it."

Dettman believes more people are aware of the danger, but he questions why police step up enforcement a few times a year.

"The more people are aware, and it should not be just at a holiday time, it should be year round," says Dettman.

Loussaert says officers watch for drunk drivers year round. The reason behind increased holiday enforcement is simple. There are more parties and more opportunities for people.

"Its more likely that they're choosing to drink, when maybe normally they don't and they may be driving in areas they're not familiar with," says Loussaert.

Potentially leading to another number added to the statistics and another family grieving the loss of a loved one.

Both Illinois and Iowa public safety officials says police officers will be aggressively looking for drunk drivers this holiday season.