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Have fun, be safe this Labor Day weekend

Published: Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Lots to do this holiday weekend in the Sauk Valley.

You can make your own fun, or check out the music (bluegrass festival in Milledgeville), crafts (Dixon Lioness Club’s craft show at John Dixon Park), and storytelling (Sterling Public Library’s festival at Woodlawn Arts Academy).

And by Monday, cooler weather will be ideal for outdoor activities.

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 working Americans, 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 (and employers!) can do.

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. People 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 as “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” are working.

Local law enforcement agencies will be taking part in a “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” crackdown on drunken drivers. They reported Friday they will increase patrols on interstates, especially, to look for drunken drivers, distracted drivers, and seat-belt violators.

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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