TRENTON—Law enforcement agencies throughout the state will conduct saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints during the upcoming holiday season as part of the “Over the Limit, Under Arrest” year-end, drunk driving crackdown, Division of Highway Traffic Safety Director Pam Fischer announced on Thursday.
Between Dec. 7, 2009 and Jan. 3, 2010, police agencies will participate in the national effort designed to combat drunk driving during one of the busiest and most dangerous travel times of the year.
As part of the initiative, which has been in place since 1999, the division will provide grants of $5,000 each to 110 law enforcement departments. Middlesex County police departments receiving grants include Carteret, Cranbury, Metuchen, New Brunswick, North Brunswick, Old Bridge, Piscataway, and Plainsboro. Union County police departments receiving grants include Cranford, Elizabeth, Hillside, Linden and Rahway.
However, all local police agencies received information about the program and have been asked to run checkpoints and patrols over the holidays and report their results to the division. The New Jersey State Police will also participate in the effort.
“We’re hoping to achieve 100 percent participation by police agencies across the state,” Fischer said. “Last year, 424 police departments participated in the initiative, up from 333 the previous year. This is a vital law enforcement program that can save lives during a time of the year when impaired driving traditionally increases by nearly 10 percent.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, last year 11,773 individuals across the nation were killed in highway crashes involving drunk driving. In New Jersey, 165 people were killed as a result of alcohol-related crashes on New Jersey’s highways, representing approximately 28 percent of the 590 traffic fatalities reported in the state.
A 2009 Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind Poll on driver behaviors, conducted in partnership with the division, indicated that one in five drivers said they have consumed alcohol and then driven, up six percent from the previous year. In addition, one in five drivers believe they can have two drinks and safely drive, while one in 10 say they can have three or more drinks and still be okay to get behind the wheel.
“Despite the gains we’ve made in reducing drunk driving related crashes, many individuals still believe that after a few drinks, they’re safe to drive,” Fischer said. “Even one drink can alter your judgment and reaction time behind the wheel, putting not only yourself, but everyone on the road, in danger.”
The division offers the following advice to ensure a safe and enjoyable holiday season for all New Jerseyans and out-of-state visitors:
• If you’ve consumed alcohol, even just one drink, take mass transit, a taxi or ask a sober friend to drive you home. Or, spend the night.
• Report impaired drivers to law enforcement. In New Jersey, drivers may dial #77 to report a drunk or aggressive driver.
• If you’re intoxicated, and traveling on foot, the safest way to get home is to take a cab or have a sober friend or family member escort you safely to your doorstep.
• Always buckle up, every ride, regardless of your seating position in the vehicle. It’s the best defense against an impaired driver.
Motorists are also asked this holiday season to subscribe to the pledge of the Ensign John R. Elliott HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers: drive sober, be a designated driver and don’t let your friends drive drunk.
Under the effort, local businesses and community groups, law enforcement agencies, and schools work together to keep drunk drivers off the road. Started in New Jersey by the Elliott family following the tragic death of their son John in a head-on collision with a drunk driver, the campaign has become a national model for preventing drunk driving.
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