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How Illinois DUI laws can keep trick-or-treaters safer

Halloween usually means fun, costumes and too much sugar. But drunk drivers on the road may lead to consequences a little more far-reaching than a stomachache.

Halloween night often results in nearly as many drunk-driving accidents as holidays such as New Year's Eve. For residents of Illinois, this is no surprise-in 2012, 2.2 percent of adults said they had driven after drinking too much (a number significantly higher than the national average).

In response, Illinois has some of the strictest drunk driving laws in the nation: even a first offense may result in a suspended license for up to 12 months, and preventative measures range from sobriety checkpoints on the roads during holiday weekends to ignition interlock devices for previous offenders that prevent your car from working if your breath shows alcohol. These strict laws have been effective, and rates of fatalities from DUI-related accidents have dropped in recent years.

However, the strict legal consequences faced by the drunk driver will probably not reassure the victim or their family when an accident does occur. There's one important thing to remember: no matter the severity of the accident, you may be entitled to punitive damages that go beyond those of simple personal injury or wrongful death. Punitive damages are sometimes also called "exemplary damages," meaning that they are designed to set an example for others who may engage in the damaging behavior. In this case, engaging the services of an attorney may be a wise course of action: your attorney will be able to not only navigate insurance matters but also evaluate whether you may be a candidate for punitive damages.

Stay smart and safe on the road this Halloween, and with any luck, the only souvenirs you'll have will be empty candy wrappers.

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