Stepped up impaired driving enforcement begins

FLINT TWP. — Labor Day weekend is one of the deadliest times of year when it comes to impaired driving, so law enforcement officers and first responders are stepping up their efforts for the next three weeks during the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over impaired-driving campaign.

Now through Sept. 2 officers will be on the lookout for drivers under the influence of drugs and alcohol. In Michigan, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, but drivers can be arrested at any BAC level if an officer believes they are impaired.

According to Kari Arend of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, there were 12 fatal crashes in Michigan during last year’s Labor Day holiday, six of which involved alcohol. In Michigan, the percentage of alcoholrelated fatalities was about 11 times higher than fatalities in all crashes, and the serious injury level was about six times higher.

At a press conference Monday, Flint Township Fire Chief Thomas Stadler shared a first responder’s perspective when dealing with vehicle accidents caused by driving impaired. He said such accidents have far-reaching effects that go beyond the victims and their families.

“The first responders who are tasked with the rescue and treatment of accident victims that have experienced horrific and gruesome injuries are certainly impacted,” he said. “To closely witness human suffering, first responders carry these scenes with them, sometimes forever. To complicate matters more are the cases of obvious loss of life and cases where even the best efforts of first responders are not enough to save a life. First responders are committed to saving lives, and when our best efforts are not successful, there is a burden that we carry. Yes, it is our job that we are committed to. However, we are human and susceptible to the emotional and mental stresses caused by traumatic visions and the loss of human life. Bottom line – don’t drive impaired.”

Lt. Dave Kaiser of the Michigan State Police said officers on patrol want people to enjoy the end of summer with their family and friends, but safely and responsibly. He said during last year’s Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, officers arrested 274 drunk drivers, issued 56 open intoxicant citations and made 95 drug arrests.

“The ultimate goal of this campaign is to reduce traffic crashes, fatalities and injuries,” Kaiser said. “That is why for the next three weeks, more than 90 police agencies across the state will conduct extra patrols looking specifically for impaired motorists. Have a plan to get home safely. Call a friend, use a ride-sharing app or use public transportation.”

Kaiser said an arrest isn’t the end for an impaired driver. It also is costly in terms of fines and fees. According to the OHSP, a DUI can set a driver back $10,000 in attorney fees, fines, court costs, lost time at work, higher insurance rates, car towing and repairs.

A new impaired driving ad is airing this month, focusing on the role of first responders and what they see when responding to a crash with an impaired driver. The ad can be seen at watch?v=V64xF3viMWE. The Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign is supported with federal traffic safety funds provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and coordinated by the OHSP.