Friday, December 21, 2007

Police to step up holiday patrols

Celebrate safe: Avoid alcohol behind the wheel

Express Staff Writer

Idaho law enforcement agencies are encouraging holiday drivers to keep the season merry, but not to overdo it.

Law enforcement agencies throughout Idaho will step up patrols to catch and arrest impaired drivers through the holidays, the Idaho Transportation Department announced.

ITD's Office of Highway Operations and Safety is providing money statewide for Idaho's law enforcement agencies to conduct overtime patrols searching for and arresting drunk or impaired drivers from Dec. 16 through New Year's Day.

Throughout last year, 110 people died in alcohol-related crashes in Idaho.

"It is estimated that each fatality caused by impaired driving costs Idahoans as much as $3 million," said Kevin Bechen of ITD. "The toll that impaired or drunk driving fatalities take on families is truly heartbreaking, particularly during the holiday season."

Driving with a blood-alcohol content of .08 or higher is illegal in Idaho, and driving skills begin to deteriorate around .05. For a 140-pound person, a .08 blood-alcohol level is reached with three drinks.

"Whether you've had way too many or just one too many, it's not worth the risk," Bechen said. "Think before you choose to drink. Don't end up spending your money on bail, court, lawyers and towing fees instead of buying holiday presents for and spending time with loved ones. That's a bad way to end the year."

Law enforcement officers will take a driver's license on the spot if a driver is arrested for driving under the influence. For a first offense, the license is lost for 90 days following failed evidentiary testing, or one year if the test is refused—in addition to other penalties that will be imposed for a DUI offense.

Money for the overtime patrol effort is supplied through a federal grant administered by ITD, Bechan said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers several tips to prevent drinking and driving:

- When you plan on consuming alcohol, designate a sober driver before going out, and give that person the car keys.

- If impaired, call a taxi or a sober friend or family member to get home safely.

- Report drunk drivers to law enforcement agencies.

- Wear seat belts while in a car.

- Take the keys away from someone who is about to drive while impaired.

"Saving lives on our roads is a top priority, and we need everyone's help to do it," Bechen said. "This holiday season don't let your year end in an arrest, or even worse—death. Make smart decisions."

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