The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission has contracted with 87 agencies, which will work additional hours dedicated to enforcing DWI, seat belt and other laws during the holiday “Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest.” campaign.
As part of their agreements with the Commission, State Police and local enforcement agencies will conduct 50 sobriety checkpoints during the enforcement wave.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides funding for this program. Nationwide, thousands of law enforcement agencies are participating in the NHTSA-sponsored campaign.
The Louisiana enforcement wave is being closely coordinated with State Police and other law enforcement agencies and includes television and radio public education campaigns.
“High-visibility enforcement waves like the one we’re coordinating with State Police and our local partners are an effective method for saving lives and reducing the number of injuries resulting from crashes,” said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission.
“Holiday celebrations at this time of year often involve alcohol, which is especially significant because 48 percent of Louisiana’s highway deaths last year involved alcohol,” he said.
Drunk driving is a serious matter in Louisiana, with a first-offense arrest costing as much as $1,000 in fines, plus court costs and even jail time. An adult driver in Louisiana can be arrested for DWI if his or her blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 or higher. The legal limit for drivers under 21 is 0.02.
“Holidays are a time when we should be celebrating life and spending time with our families,” said Louisiana State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson. “Nothing can be more devastating than the tragedy of losing a loved one due to impaired driving. My troopers will be doing their part to keep our highways safe. We ask that you partner with us and make the right decision by not drinking and driving.”
In recent years the Louisiana Legislature has strengthened the state’s DWI laws, especially for repeat offenders. One recent law imposes 15-day jail sentences on people caught driving while their licenses are suspended for a previous DWI. Another measure suspends for one year licenses of suspects who refuse to take a BAC test.
A 2008 law requires DWI offenders whose licenses are suspended to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles for one year, if they are granted a “hardship license.” Ignition interlocks prevent people who have alcohol in their system from starting their vehicle. A driver breathes into an interlock device to determine blood alcohol concentration. If there is measurable alcohol in the blood, the vehicle does not start.
In addition, an increasing number of law enforcement agencies, district attorneys and judges are participating in “No Refusal” programs during the holidays. During these periods judges are on standby to approve search warrants, based on probable cause, that authorize police to take blood samples from suspects who refuse to submit to a blood alcohol breath test.
“The safest policy is to not drive at all if you have been drinking,” LeBlanc said. “A person whose blood alcohol concentration is over the legal limit of .08 is in no shape to make the many critical and instant decisions that are required for safe driving. For many people, their ability to make safe judgments while behind the wheel is compromised even before they reach the legal limit.”
The 87 agencies joining the 2010 safety campaign is an increase in participation from last year’s “Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest.” program. Four people were killed in crashes during the 2009 Christmas-New Year’s holidays—a significant decrease from 2008 when 20 people were killed in holiday crashes and 2007 when 25 were killed during that holiday period.