SPRINGFIELD — — About a third of the motorcyclists killed in Illinois crashes last year were drunk, said those behind a new statewide traffic safety campaign aimed at impressing upon riders just how dangerous it is to mix motorcycling and alcohol.
State and federal traffic crash data released as part of the initiative show that the highest number of motorcycle fatalities involving drunken Illinois riders occurred from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The data show 24 percent of motorcycle fatalities during that time involved a drunken rider. By comparison, 11 percent of fatalities from crashes of all other types of vehicles involve a drunken driver during the same hours.
The data is from the Illinois Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and spans five years from 2007 to 2011.
Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider called drunken motorcyclists' behavior dangerous and criminal.
"We must put a stop to this trend before more lives are lost on Illinois roadways," Schneider said.
Transportation officials, the Illinois State Police and motorcycle safety advocates launched a campaign Thursday to remind people of the dangers of mixing alcohol with motorcycle riding. Its slogan is "Ride sober or get pulled over."
Data show nearly 150 motorcyclists died in crashes last year. State transportation officials said of those riders, 47 were legally intoxicated with a blood alcohol of more than .08 percent.
"When motorcyclists fail to make smart choices their decision may have fatal results," said Bruce Liebe, who is president of the Lincoln Land Chapter of the motorcycle advocacy group A.B.A.T.E.