So don’t drive drunk | VailDaily.com

So don’t drive drunk

Dwight Henninger

Impaired driving is one of America’s most often committed and deadliest crimes. According to the FBI, more than 1.4 million people nationwide were arrested in 2003 for driving under the influence. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics for 2003 show that more than 13,000 people died in highway crashes involving a driver with an illegal blood-alcohol concentration level of 0.08 or higher. That’s why law enforcement in Eagle County will be working overtime this weekend cracking down on drunken drivers. Our message is simple: You drink and drive. You lose. Anyone planning on drinking alcohol needs to be responsible and designate a sober driver. With increased roving and saturation patrols and concerned citizens, chances are if you drive impaired, you will be arrested. Driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 and above is illegal. Violators will be spending their money on bail, court, lawyers and towing fees instead of on the last days of their summer vacations. This national “You Drink and Drive. You Lose” crackdown is complemented by a $13.9 million national advertising campaign that puts drivers on notice that if they drive impaired, they will be caught and prosecuted.Studies from NHTSA show that Americans support tougher enforcement and consider drunken driving an important social issue, ahead of health care, poverty, the environment and gun control. Nearly 97 percent of Americans view drinking and driving by others as a threat. The majority of Americans also support increased enforcement efforts such as sobriety checkpoints to protect innocent victims from impaired drivers.NHTSA’s data also show that motorcycle operators have the highest incidence of drunk-driving-related fatal crashes. In 2003, motorcycles accounted for 29 percent, light trucks for 22 percent, passenger cars for 22 percent and large trucks for 1 percent of all fatal crashes where a driver had a blood alcohol level of 0.08 and above. Furthermore, almost half (44 percent) of the 1,501 motorcycle operators who died in single-vehicle crashes in 2003 were intoxicated.Too many people still don’t understand that alcohol, drugs and driving don’t mix. Impaired driving is no accident, nor is it a victimless crime.Always follow these tips for a safer outing:– Be responsible and don’t drive impaired * you will be caught. — If you plan to drink, choose a designated driver before going out.– Take mass transit, a taxi or ask a sober friend to drive you home.– Spend the night where the activity is being held.– Report impaired drivers to law enforcement.– Always buckle up. It’s still your best defense against an impaired driver.Driving a car or riding a motorcycle while impaired is simply not worth the risk. The consequences are serious and real. Not only do you risk killing yourself or someone else, but the trauma and financial costs of a crash or an arrest for driving while impaired can be significant. So, remember the bottom line this Labor Day holiday: no warnings, no exceptions, no excuses: You drink and drive. You lose.Submitted by Police Chief Dwight Henninger on behalf of area law enforcement, including the Eagle County police chiefs, Eagle County sheriff, Colorado State Patrol, 5th Judicial District attorney.Vail, Colorado