Police crack down on drunk drivers

by Katie Frank
August 12, 2004

If you feel like someone is watching you this Friday the 13th, you might just be right.

On that night, the Chicago Police Department will send its 27-foot Breath Alcohol Testing Truck (a.k.a the “B.A.T.T. Mobile”) and Roadside Safety Check team to the intersection of North Avenue and Albany north of Humboldt Park. Its mission: to crack down on impaired drivers.

The watch begins at 8 p.m. and continues until 4 a.m. on Saturday.

“Traditionally we were able to get a number of DUI’s off the street at that location,” said Lt. Thomas Kuroski, commanding officer of traffic safety. Kuroski said initiating a road check on Friday the 13th, a day of bad luck, according to superstition, is purely coincidental. The date is not associated with higher rates of alcohol-related traffic fatalities like New Year’s Eve or Halloween.

The Chicago Police Department has organized these regular check points since 1998.

Who gets pulled over? The commanding officer for the night sets the interval of when to pick out cars, Kuroski explained. “It has to be random,” he said. “You can’t just pick out a car because you feel like it.”

A few weeks ago, the last roadside check in the Gresham District resulted in a total of 86 citations, 10 of which were for driving under the influence. Several included insurance, seat belt and drivers license violations.

Defense attorney Harold Wallin, who calls himself “The Illinois DUI lawyer,” expressed the view that roadside checks enforce drinking laws more stringently. Wallin has dealt with impaired driving cases for 10 years.

The Illinois General Assembly toughened legislation in 1997 to lower the illegal blood-alcohol content to .08 percent from .10 percent. Chances are now higher that police will make an arrest at a roadside check, according to Wallin. “You get more borderline cases as opposed to those driving more erratically,” Wallin said.

A total of 51,649 DUI arrests were recorded in 2002 by the Secretary of State’s office, according to its 2004 Illinois DUI Factbook. Males between 21 and 24 had the highest arrest rate for driving under the influence. “[Police] leave it to the courts to settle out,” Wallin said.