Stepped Up Traffic Enforcement Begins

State police across the country are out in force during the July 4 holiday period to watch for drunk drivers.

Having the July 4 holiday occur midweek apparently does not mean drunk drivers will be less numerous -- at least, that is the assumption by state highway patrol departments across the country as they begin extra patrols to last throughout the holiday period. Every available South Dakota Highway Patrol trooper was on the roads July 3 in what the state described as a high-visibility "Operation Safe" to remind motorists to make safe and responsible decisions during their holiday travel. The holiday is a Maximum Enforcement Period for the California Highway Patrol starting at 6 p.m. July 3 and ending at 11:59 p.m. July 4. In Tennessee, the first-ever "No Refusal" enforcement campaign was scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. July 3 in five counties and end at midnight July 8. This resulted from a new law that allows law enforcement to legally obtain drivers' blood samples by working with prosecutors and judges statewide. The Tennessee Highway Patrol and local officials also will conduct sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols in those counties, where impaired driving and fatal crashes have risen so far this year, and in other parts of the state.

"When celebrating Independence Day, the CHP wants you to be safe. When driving, be sure to leave plenty of time to get to your destination. Most importantly, before heading out, insist everyone in the vehicle is wearing a seat belt and children are secure in safety seats," said California Highway Patrol Commissioner Joe Farrow. According to his department, 34 people died in traffic collisions during last year's Independence Day MEP -- a significant increase from the 23 people who died in 2010. "It is alarming to know that more than 80 percent of the people who were killed in vehicle collisions over the Independence Day holiday last year may have survived had they taken the time to buckle up," Farrow said.

In Columbus, Ohio, the Ohio State Highway Patrol released final 2011 fatality numbers confirming it was the safest year on record with 1,015 traffic deaths. Fatalities have been rising this year, however.

"We recognize last year's record accomplishment but need the public's help to reverse the upward trend in 2012," said Col. John Born, patrol superintendent. "Last year, more impaired drivers were arrested and fewer impaired driving crashes occurred, but there's significantly more work to do."

Through May of this year, the patrol's arrests involving allegedly impaired driving were up 8 percent from a year ago. Fatal crashes in which impairment was involved were down by 10 percent. During last year's July 4 weekend, Ohio troopers arrested 598 drivers for DUI.

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