CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — The Ilinois State Police will be conducting a series of specialized traffic patrols this month in five Central Illinois counties, officials announced, all in an effort to improve driver safety.

State Police officials said the patrols will take place in Champaign, Coles, Douglas, Macon and Vermilion Counties. The patrols have different purposes and areas of focus, but troopers will be looking across all of them for four traffic violations that officials said contribute the greatest to traffic crashes and deaths in Illinois.

Impaired driving, or driving under the influence, is blamed for 30% of traffic deaths in Illinois, officials said. They added that there is one alcohol-related traffic death every 53 minutes in the United States. Troopers working on Alcohol Countermeasure Enforcement (ACE) patrols will be looking for drivers who are driving in an unsafe manner, driving with a suspended or revoked license, transporting open alcohol or outright driving under the influence.

Officials added that speeding increases the likelihood of a deadly crash even more, with 35% of deadly crashes involving speed as a factor. But even deadlier are crashes where vehicle occupants did not use their seat belts or restraint devices. Nearly half of vehicle occupants killed in crashes were known to be unbuckled, while more than 14,000 lives are saved each year thanks to proper seat belt usage.

The ISP’s Occupant Restraint Enforcement Patrols (OREPs) will allow troopers to focus on seat belt and child safety seat laws. But another ISP patrol type under the Distracted Driving Enforcement Program (DDEP) will focus on the fourth violation officials mentioned: distracted driving.

Officials said distractions like eating food and drinking nonalcoholic beverages, sending a text message and reaching for an object increase the risk of an accident by a factor of three, four and eight, respectively. Reading a text message, they added, takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of five seconds.

Troopers working DDEP patrols will be looking for the following violations related to distracted driving:

  • Reading, sending or receiving text messages
  • Browsing the Internet on cell phones
  • Drivers of any age using handheld cell phones
  • Drivers under the age of 19 using any cell phone, handheld or hands-free
  • Drivers of any age using a cell phone, handheld or hands-free, in school and work speed zones
  • School bus drivers using any cell phone
  • Using cell phones (including taking pictures and video) within 500 feet of an emergency scenes

All four of these driving violations are also covered by Special Traffic Enforcement Patrols (STEPs) and their nighttime counterpart NITE patrols. Officials added that over half of and deadly crashes happen at night.

In addition to the driving violations, troopers will also be on the lookout for violations of the Illinois Vehicle Code and criminal violations of the law. All patrols are funded through the Illinois Department of Transportation as part of the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” and “Click It or Ticket” campaigns.