Drinking and Driving: The Ongoing Fight against DUI Car Accidents in Indiana and Illinois

Drinking and Driving: The Ongoing Fight against DUI Car Accidents in Indiana and Illinois

In the past month, there have been more news stories about serious drunk driving accidents here in our part of the country.   As if we need more reminders that drunk driving causes accidents and fatalities, right?

Recent Local Drunk Driving Accidents and Arrests in Indiana

There have been several car crash stories in the past several weeks.  But ones that involve a blatant lesson about driving under the influence of alcohol include the following for Hoosiers.

Local DJ in Crash Involving Five Vehicles:

First, there was the crash involving local Indianapolis radio celebrity most of us know as DJ Zakk from “Zakk on Air,” over on 99.5FM (WZPL). Seems Zachary Babb (Zakk’s full name) was allegedly driving his Chevy Equinox around 10:30 on a Friday night and crashed it into five other motor vehicles at the intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and Shelby Street.

One of the victims of the five  car pile-up is the chef and owner of Pizzology, Stella, and The Libertine Liquor Bar.  Mr. Babb was reported to have been arrested on suspicion of driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

This comes from the local police report and the coverage by IndyStar.com in its story by Justin L. Mack on August 6, 2017, published as “Local radio personality hits Indianapolis chief in suspected drunken driving crash.

Indiana Plea Deal in Fatal DUI Accident:

On September 2, 2017, Hoosier local Michael Popovich pled guilty to felony homicide by vehicle while driving drunk as well as misdemeanor DUI in the drunk driving accident that happened last May 14, 2017, in Homer City.

Under state law, he faces a minimum of three years in prison (maximum is 20 years).  Mr. Popovich is a young man, only 21 years old.  His Jeep Wrangler went off the road on Mount Zion Road and hit 16 year old Kai Hrabovsky, who was in the grassy shoulder of the road. 

The incident happened after what reporters deemed an “underage drinking party” with police reports showing the driver’s BAC level at 0.16%.  See the article in the Indiana Gazette, “Homer City man pleads guilty in fatal DUI crash.”

Illinois’ Recent DUI Accidents and Arrests

The Repeated Offender at the Railroad Crossing:

In Chicago, at a quarter after three o’clock on the morning of September 2, 2017, a police officer arrested Ruben Quintana, who had previous drunk driving convictions on his record, for suspicion of driving drunk after Mr. Quintana failed a field sobriety test there at the scene.  The officer found the driver passed out behind the wheel of his car at a railroad crossing.

Apparently, Mr. Quintana was driving the route and stopped for the passing train.  His engine was running and his foot was on the brake pedal at the time the police officer tapped on the window. 

This, according to the police report and news coverage by the Chicago Sun Times in its September 2, 2017 story entitled “Police: Drunk driver fell asleep at wheel waiting for passing train.”

Illinois Sentencing After Plea Deal in Fatal DUI Crash:

Last October, pregnant Jessica Tyson Ragan and her unborn son died in a drunk driving accident on Illinois 48 over in Christian County, Illinois.  The driver, Lance Pitsch, later pled guilty to reckless homicide and aggravated DUI.  See, “Man pleads guilty in DUI deaths of Taylorville woman and her unborn child,” written by Jason Nevel and published in the State Journal-Register in June 2017.

Blood tests showed that Mr. Pitsch was driving at three times the acceptable BAC limit for Illinois state law.  Admittedly driving drunk, he pulled into the wrong lane of traffic on Illinois 48 and caused the fatal crash. 

Last week, after a sentencing hearing, the drunk driver was sentenced to 11 years in prison.   Pitsch was sentenced to 11 years for the aggravated DUI and reckless homicide.

Should States Lower Their BAC Limit to .05?

Last month, the State of Illinois marked the anniversary of legislation making it illegal to drive a vehicle in the state’s jurisdiction with a BAC of .08.  This has been state law for the past twenty years in Illinois.

Many are claiming that this lower BAC limit has resulted in less fatal drunk driving crashes.  Statistics they point to show that fatal DUI crashes in Illinois are 43% less than they were back in 1997, when the law was first passed.

However, it is also true that since 2004 every state in the union has had the same legal limit for drunk driving (.08%).  And there are arguments being made to lower that legal limit even more, down to .05 BAC.  Utah just became the first state to formally do so.

As MADD points out,however,  lowering the BAC percentage isn’t the answer.  People are going to drink and drive anyway.  The answer, from MADD’s perspective Is that any percentage should be illegal.  People are impacted and impaired by any level of alcohol in their system.

Wrongful Death Claims after a Drunk Driving Crash in Indiana or Illinois

For those who have been killed in a drunk driving accident, the aftermath of grief and loss for their loved ones is unfathomable.  There can be no true compensation for their loss.  And discussions on lowering the BAC legal limits do little to help them heal.

However, in both Indiana and Illinois there are Wrongful Death Statutes in place to provide some form of justice to these grieving loved ones. Both Indiana and Illinois have wrongful death laws on the books to help those who have lost a loved one to a drunk driver.

Please stay cautious against the danger of a drunk driver this season! Be careful out there!


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