When are we going to wise up about drunken driving?
It's a problem -- a serious problem -- across the suburbs. It is a problem not limited to a day, a season, or the holidays. It can't be dismissed as a mistake. It is a seven-days-a-week, 24-hours-a-day problem that takes lives, ruins careers, and tears apart families.
Drinking too much alcohol, then driving away in a mass of metal, rubber and plastic often leaves a trail of unimaginable heartache. Yet it happens countless times in the suburbs.
We're moved to this reflection after the Schaumburg-based Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists released last week its annual survey of DUI arrest statistics in Illinois.
Of the more than 550 police departments that responded to AAIM's survey, Rockford was first in among municipal departments with 490 DUI arrests in 2017, but the suburbs were heavily represented in the top 10, with Elgin (418), Aurora (326), Lombard (313), Carol Stream (291) and Naperville (271). Gurnee saw a nearly 41 percent increase in its DUI arrests.
AAIM's survey is meant to recognize the departments and officers who are most productive in the fight against drunken driving, but it underscores how prevalent DUI arrests are 28 years after the first survey was published.
DUI continues to be a problem despite public service announcements, despite threats from law enforcement to prosecute violations, and despite holiday crackdowns and roadside sobriety checkpoints.
It happens despite news stories about the grief experienced by the loved ones of innocent victims -- those people whose only mistake was being on the road in the wrong place and at the wrong time with a drunken driver. Last year, three Arlington Heights family members died on Northwest Highway in Des Plaines when 21-year-old Piotr Rog plowed into their car outside Lattof YMCA. Rog, who also was killed in the high-speed crash, was legally drunk after being thrown out of a bar for disorderly behavior, police said.
What will it take to get through to people not to drink and drive? Lombard Police Chief Roy Newton said it's hard to fathom that so many people still drive drunk, even though there are plenty of transportation alternatives available.
"Given that you can just touch a button on your phone to get a ride, I'm amazed at the numbers," Newton told our Charles Keeshan and Susan Sarkauskas in a recent Cops & Crime column. "It's sad that people continue to put others at risk and put themselves at risk."
Sad, tragic and so senseless. It's time we all take responsibility to end drunken driving.