12/31/10 — Law will patrol for drunken drivers

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Law will patrol for drunken drivers

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on December 31, 2010 1:46 PM

Law enforcement officers will be on the road in large numbers tonight to make sure motorists welcome 2011 safely and responsibly.

Drivers can expect increased police, sheriff and highway patrol presence in Wayne County and across the state as the Booze It and Lose It campaign prepares for the last big party of 2010.

The campaign is part of an ongoing message to drivers from the Governor's Highway Safety Program: If you plan to get behind the wheel New Year's Eve, leave your friends Jack Daniels, Jim Beam and Captain Morgan at home.

"We know New Year's Eve is a time a lot of people like to celebrate," Highway Patrol information officer Sgt. Jeff Gordon said. "Make sure, number one, that you have a designated driver."

The Booze It and Lose It holiday campaign, which kicked off early this month, set up dozens of stops and checkpoints in Wayne County to catch drunken drivers. So far, authorities in Wayne County have cited 30 people for driving while impaired, along with citing others for numerous violations including speeding and driving without a license. The 2009 Booze It and Lose It campaign caught more than 4,200 impaired drivers state-wide.

Drivers caught operating a vehicle under the influence may lose their license for a period of time and face other possible punishment, including fines and community service.

The Highway Patrol will have a full staff of troopers on the roads beginning in the early evening hours and running into the morning of Jan. 1, Gordon said.

"The troopers are scheduled accordingly to work and be out and be visible. They're also scheduled at the time frames when we're most likely to see impaired drivers, which are the evening hours," he said.

The state will also have the BATmobile, a mobile breath alcohol testing vehicle, on the road. The BATmobile functions as a blood alcohol level testing laboratory and courtroom on wheels, allowing officers to set up efficient checkpoints and even turn offenders over to an on-board magistrate to expedite the legal process.

The troopers will also have "wolfpack" patrols, or extra officers on patrol in areas with a history of having a lot of drunken drivers on the road, Gordon said.

If other drivers are showing signs of intoxication, the best thing to do is report it by calling the Highway Patrol, he said. On a cell phone, the shortcut to contact the Highway Patrol is dialing *47.

Some signs of a possibly impaired driver are traveling well below the speed limit or a fluctuating speed, going from fast to slow unrelated to the speed limit.

Drunk drivers often sit at a stoplight or stop sign too long, because their reaction time is greatly reduced, Gordon said. They also frequently fail to use turn signals and tend to make wide turns, in addition to the classic sign of weaving, drifting into other driving lanes or running off of the road.

Those are all actions that can endanger not only drunk drivers, but the sober drivers around them who are obeying the law, Gordon pointed out.

"My suggestion to the people on the highway, you need to be cognizant not only of your driving, but the other drivers out on the highway," he said.

Keep to the posted speed limit and drive according to weather conditions, especially if the roads are icy, wet or if there is limited visibility.

And when ringing in the new year with a few glasses of holiday cheer, stay off the road entirely, or have a designated driver.

"If you are going to go out and consume alcohol, please don't get behind the wheel," Gordon said.