CENTRAL ILLINOIS, (WCIA) — Josh Korando with Illinois State Police said his goal as a trooper is to make sure everybody arrives alive to their holiday season destinations. That means no distractions while driving.
In 2022, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) said there have been 1,182 people who lost their lives in car crashes.
IDOT and State Police are working together to make sure it doesn’t keep happening.
“You don’t know what other drivers are doing let alone what you yourself are doing if you’re distracted or anything,” Nicholas Geers said.
He lives in Central Illinois and is headed to Chicago for New Year’s Eve. Geers said he’s taking the train instead of driving, aiming to stay as safe as possible and stay clear of the roads.
“It avoids all of the traffic that’s going to be going on, but also just eliminates the option of going out and drinking and driving or just being intoxicated in general,” Geers added.
Korando is grateful for the people who are making that same decision. He said their goal is for everybody to get home safely.
Korando also said the number of travelers on interstate highways is always higher around the holidays. State Police are increasing their presence, and looking for what they call the fatal four. That includes speeding, DUIs, distracted driving and seatbelts.
Paul Wappel, a spokesperson for IDOT, said last year in 2021, 1,334 people died in crashes, 275 of them involving alcohol.
“The holidays are a time to get together with family and friends, and have great memories,” Wappel said. “Nobody wants to end up planning a funeral or have somebody end up in the hospital.”
When focused on the road, many crashes are preventable. Experts said it’s best to put down the phone and buckle up.
Korando said even in his 15-year career, responding to deadly accidents never gets easier.
“If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen too many,” he said. “You never get used to it. You never forget. I remember every single terrible crash that I’ve been to.”
Wappel said he wants to make sure crashes don’t keep happening.
“The goal is always zero fatalities. That’s our goal, it always will be,” Wappel said.
So instead, he suggests having a designated driver, using a rideshare program and giving the keys to someone else.
It’s something Geers is willing to do to save lives and stay safe.
“It’s kinda expensive to Uber multiple times, but it’s also really expensive to pay off a DUI or a DWI,” Geers said.
He added that it’s not only a smart decision money-wise but also one way to be responsible for everyone else in the community.
State Police also want to remind drivers to move over and slow down whenever you see someone pulled over, not only for first responders. Someone may be having car troubles and need extra space to stay safe.