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Our View: Stay safe this Labor Day weekend

Published: Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

If you’re lucky, you have Monday off and plan to fire up the barbecue and enjoy one last summer hurrah.

While it’s actually a day to celebrate the social and economic achievements of workers, Labor Day serves as the unofficial, symbolic end of summer. It’s a time to enjoy a few last carefree days before school kicks into high gear, swimming pools close and vacations fade into pleasant memories, when we put away our white clothing and gear up for football season.

Everyone who works deserves recognition, and a day off that honors workers seems the least the government can do for its citizens.

But while you’re giving yourself a pat on the back, please do so safely. Many of us are hitting the road: In Illinois, 1.9 million people are expected to travel for the long holiday weekend, with just over 1.7 million driving, according to AAA. Those staying closer to home might hit the road to go to parties with family and friends.

Holidays tend to have a higher concentration of vehicular accidents, and Labor Day weekend is no different.

From 2005 to 2011, there were 96 fatalities over Labor Day weekends in Illinois, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. Thirty-seven of those were in alcohol-related fatal crashes. Labor Day weekends in that same time frame saw 3,967 people injured, and more than 17,000 crashes.

All were unnecessary.

There’s been a decline in the number of Labor Day weekend accidents – from a high of 2,974 in 2007 to 1,961 in 2011. The decline is good: It shows people are thinking twice before drinking and driving, or illustrates that annual state campaigns such “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” are working.

Local law enforcement agencies, including Woodstock Police and the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office, are taking part in this year’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” crackdown on drunken drivers.

The statewide crackdown includes high-visibility alcohol and seat-belt enforcement, and is funded by federal traffic safety funds through IDOT. It runs through Labor Day.

We hope residents make safe decisions this weekend – such as having designated drivers or staying off roads until sober – so local police are left with little to do.

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