Drunk driving, sometimes referred to as impaired driving, is a national safety issue. Last year, there were nearly 12,000 alcohol-related fatalities on U.S. roadways. While each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia have impaired driving laws, some states, like Illinois, have taken extra precautions in their campaigns against impaired driving. Since 1958, Illinois DUI-related laws have been in existence. In some counties, more proactive intervention programs, such as Kane County's Holiday Alcohol Testing (HAT) Program, are receiving media and community attention.
Under the HAT Program, offenders convicted of drunk driving in Kane County must submit to additional alcohol screenings to prove that they aren't in violation of existing court directives during events or holidays statistically associated with increased alcohol consumption. Unlike Illinois' Faces of DUI video or the DUI Victim Wall, these programs represent direct community intervention with DUI offenders. Modeled after a similar initiative in Michigan, the objective of the HAT Program is to provide added incentive for offenders to comply with the terms of their probations and court orders.
While Labor Day marked the beginning of the program, involving 17 known offenders, the plan is to implement testing throughout other holidays and events with which drinking is associated, such as Halloween, New Year's, St. Patrick's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Super Bowl weekend, Thanksgiving weekend and NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament weekend.
Considered an additional tool to combat DUI offenses, the program provides consequences to convicted offenders who fail the less-than-random screens. Revocations of bond, amended terms of probation, additional interventions, requirement of alcohol-use monitoring devices, increased court involvement and even jail time are possible penalties for confirmed alcohol use during a HAT Program sting.
The HAT Program will compliment the additional work of the Kane County DUI Task Force, which also institutes "No refusal" weekends. This program is also geared at repeat offenders.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of Illinois' citizens are charged with DUI and other driving offenses. Some may wonder if the HAT Program will be isolated to Kane County; however, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is a strong advocate for measures that address impaired driving. With grant money to help with funding and a clear directive to curb the risk of fatal car crashes, the Kane County Program may be just one of many impaired driver prevention programs to come in Illinois.