Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign is in effect

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission is coordinating a "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign Aug. 16 through Sept. 2 designed to remove impaired drivers from the state's highways. Law enforcement efforts to crack down on impaired driving will be increased during the entire campaign period.

The Commission's efforts include grants that 118 law enforcement agencies are using to conduct saturation DWI patrols and sobriety checkpoints. In addition, some local law enforcement agencies, judges and prosecutors are conducting "no refusal" policies during the campaign period. Agencies will also be using mobile testing units that expedite the processing and arrest of drunk-driving suspects. The Commission has contacted law enforcement agencies across the state requesting that they implement "no refusal" policies during the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign.

Under "no refusal," judges are on 24-hour standby to sign warrants that allow officers to conduct tests on DWI suspects who refuse to voluntarily submit to blood alcohol concentration (BAC) tests. Many areas of the state will be using mobile testing units equipped with cameras, computers, BAC testing equipment and other devices that greatly reduce the time it takes an officer to process a DWI suspect.

This year Labor Day falls during the campaign period. Traffic, and the number of crashes, often increase around this holiday, which is regarded by some as the unofficial end of summer. According to preliminary data, 331 fatal and injury crashes occurred in Louisiana during the 2012 Labor Day holiday, which resulted in seven deaths and 569 injuries.

Louisiana State Police troopers are among scores of police officers and sheriff's deputies working overtime hours to strictly enforce the state's DWI laws.

"The Louisiana State Police will continue to make partnerships, safety education and proactive enforcement a priority this Labor Day weekend," said Col. Mike Edmonson, State Police Superintendent. "Labor Day typically provides families an opportunity to celebrate the end of summer; however, we remind them to celebrate safely. Take the steps necessary to protect you, your family and fellow citizens by buckling your seatbelt, avoiding distracted driving and never drive impaired."

Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, explained that Louisiana roads are likely to be congested during Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, especially as the Labor Day holiday approaches.

"This is traditionally a heavy period for highway travel across the nation," LeBlanc said. "The more vehicles that are on the road, the greater the chances of crashes occurring.

Strict enforcement of traffic safety laws, as is being done during the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, is the most effective action we can take to save lives on our highways."

LeBlanc said the campaign focuses on impaired driving because alcohol is a factor in so many of Louisiana's fatal crashes. Preliminary statistics for 2012 indicate that 40 percent of fatal crashes in Louisiana were alcohol related. Officials believe that Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over and similar campaigns have helped reduce the number of alcohol-related crash deaths in Louisiana. In 2007, alcohol was a factor in 45 percent of fatal crashes.

A DWI arrest can cost a driver more than $1,000 in fines, court and legal fees, insurance rate increases and other expenses, and usually results in spending at least a few hours or overnight in jail. Persons with a DWI conviction on their record risk having other problems, such as losing their job, suspended driver's license and being required to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle. In 2011, Louisiana authorities made almost 30,000 DWI arrests.