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Front Page » December 28, 2006 » Local News » Law enforcement agencies launch effort to combat impaired...
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Law enforcement agencies launch effort to combat impaired driving

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Sun Advocate reporter

Responsible friends take the keys from drinking acquaintances, making sure people have no chance to climb behind the wheel inebriated. Local law enforcement agencies and the Utah Highway Patrol will have extra officers on shift during the New Year's holiday weekend to combat drunk driving incidents.

With New Year's Eve just around the corner, city and county law enforcement departments and state officials want to make sure that underage drinking and drunk driving are prevented where possible.

The United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recently released data showing that more than four million people ages 16 to 20 years old drove vehicles while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs in the past year, according to 2002 and 2003 reports.

The number of drivers admitting to operating a motor vehicle while under the influence represents 21 percent of all American youth in that age range.

SAMHSA extracted the data from a national survey on drug use and health.

The administration found that, among the 16 to 20 year-old motorists, 14 percent drove under the influence of illicit drugs, 17 percent reported driving under the influence of alcohol and 8 percent reported driving after consuming a combination of alcohol and illicit drugs.

In a campaign to combat the problem locally, Price Police Chief Aleck Shilaos plans to have an extra officer on duty during the weekend to work a DUI shift.

The Price officer will look specifically for individuals who may be driving under the influence of alcohol/drug.

Wages for the additional law enforcement patrol officer will be paid by the state because of Utah's ongoing effort to stop drunk driving.

"Just be safe," said Shilaos in an interview Tuesday.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving online, a national law enforcement crackdown including sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols and a national advertising blitz will take place during the holidays.

The U.S. Congress has provided $7 million for national advertising to intensify the impact of the crackdown.

The campaign, "Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest." will run nationally on programs aimed at 21- to 34-year-old males, the demographic at highest risk of causing death or getting killed in alcohol related crashes, according to MADD.

The site reports that a blood alcohol level above .08 percent is illegal in all 50 states and is the point at which the fatal crash risk increases significantly.

When an individual's blood alcohol level reaches .08 percent, all of the critical driving skills are affected: braking, steering, lane changing, judgment and response time.

The risk of a motorists dying in a crash at .08 blood alcohol content is at least 11 times that of drivers without alcohol in their system.

"Highly visible law enforcement, including checkpoints and saturation patrols are proven to remove drunk drivers from the road and the public supports them," said Glynn Birch, MADD's national president.

"Don't drink and drive if you

"Don't drink and drive if you don't want to end up arrested or worse," echoed East Carbon Police Chief Sam Leonard.

The East Carbon City Police Department will also have an extra officer on patrol during the weekend to enforce Utah's DUI statute.

Under Utah law, an individual may be charged with drunk driving for two reasons:

•If breath or blood tests performed on the operator of a motor vehicle reveal a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher.

•If alcohol, regardless of concentration, has impaired a driver's ability to safely operate a vehicle.

Drunk driving is classified as a class B misdemeanor for a first offense. The penalties that may be imposed on a class B DUI conviction include:

•Two days of incarceration in the county jail.

•A minimum of 24 hours of community service.

•A variety of fees and fines, starting at $700.

For all subsequent offenses, the charge of drunk driving will be raised to:

•Class A misdemeanor criminal charges in instances where others are injured in connection with the incidents.

•A third degree felony if careless drunk driving results in the death or injury of another.

•A second degree felony charge if the drunk driver's excessively dangerous driving resulted in the death of another person.

Despite the statistics, Shilaos indicated that he is optimistic about responsibility of his citizens.

"Historically, things have been very good over the last couple of years and we would like to see that continue," concluded the Price police chief.

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