Illinois officials remind drivers to be cautious as millions hit the road for Labor Day weekend

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CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WMBD) — The engines are hot and the wheels are in motion as millions get ready to take to the road for Labor Day weekend.

Illinois State Troopers said the weekend is typically a time when more drivers are out for getaways or visiting loved ones.

“Me and family are going to Memphis for a family get-together,” Elaine Ashmore, a Peoria resident, said.

“I usually have family come in, but I’m going out of town this weekend,” Derrick Brown, another Peoria resident, said.

But while many are excited to head out of town, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is issuing travel caution during the current fourth wave of the pandemic.

“We have articulated that people who are fully vaccinated and who are wearing masks can travel, although given where we are with disease transmission right now, we would say that people need to take these risks into their own consideration as they think about traveling,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said.

“First and foremost, if you are unvaccinated, we would recommend not traveling,” Walensky said.

However, some drivers said they understand the risks and are ready to head out.

“As long as I mask up and people mask up I think we’ll be safe,” Brown said.

“Due to the pandemic that’s out here, it’s real, but family is family, and you know, we just want to see family and be safe,” Ashmore said.

But COVID-19 isn’t the only issue warranting a warning from authorities this weekend. ISP troopers said more cars on the concrete create a possibility for more road wrecks.

Haylie Polistina, a trooper with Illinois State Police, said troopers will be patrolling over the weekend and focus their attention on factors that contribute to the “fatal four” crashes.

She said these factors are driving under the influence, eating, distracted driving, and not wearing seat belts.

“We want people to enjoy their holiday weekend, but we also want them to be vigilant while driving, we want them to watch for motorists on the side of the roadway,” Polistina said. “We want them to follow the law, we want them to not speed, drive distracted and wear their seatbelts. So, hopefully, everyone will do that safely this weekend.”

Deputy John Shallenberger of the Tazewell County Sheriff’s office said 30% of traffic deaths on Labor Day weekend in 2019 involved a drunk driver. He said if you plan to drink, plan ahead and have a designated sober driver or contract a ride-sharing service.

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