Archive for Friday, August 19, 2011

Statewide DUI crackdown under way until Labor Day

August 19, 2011

Special to the newspaper

WICHITA, Kan. — Officials responsible for enforcing impaired driving laws announced an elevated enforcement initiative before, during and after the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Sedgwick County Sheriff Robert Hinshaw said: “Tragedy follows if you drink and drive, even if you’ve only had one or two drinks,” he said. “If you don’t die, you may be responsible for somebody else’s death. That’s why if you’re over the limit, you’re going to go to jail.”

Thomas Weilert, an assistant district attorney who oversees prosecution of DUI cases in Sedgwick County, gave an overview of legislation that took effect in July raising DUI penalties and expanding use of an ignition interlock device that DUI offenders will be required to use.

“Just getting stopped and ticketed for DUI is a life-changing event that will cost you several thousand dollars, even for a first-time offense,” Weilert said. “Once you include the fine, attorney fees, time off work, court-ordered alcohol treatment, court costs, the ignition interlock device and much more, this will cost you a lot of money.”

“And if that’s not enough, think about the personal impact of injuring yourself or someone else, or even taking somebody’s life.”

Weilert and Hinshaw spoke Aug. 12 in Wichita, during an event to announce elevated enforcement statewide over the next several weeks. Special Kansas Department of Transportation funding provides overtime to sheriffs’ offices, police departments and the Kansas Highway Patrol to get drunk drivers off Kansas roads and highways.

Pete Bodyk, traffic safety manager for the KDOT Bureau of Transportation Safety and Technology, said the annual “Drunk driving. Over the limit. Under arrest.” initiative will occur across Kansas from Aug. 18 through Sept. 5 as part of a national enforcement period leading up to the Labor Day weekend.

There is no question that drinking and driving is deadly. In 2009, the most recent year for which data is available, impaired driving accounted for only 5.4 percent of Kansas crashes, but 32.5 percent of all fatal crashes.

Statewide in 2009, there were 3,120 alcohol-related crashes, which resulted in 124 deaths and 1,917 injuries, and they disproportionately involved younger male drivers. Of the 3,120 alcohol-related crashes, more than half (1,789) involved drivers between the ages of 20 and 34. Of the 2,021 impaired drivers in this age group, nearly three-fourths were male (1,502 males vs. 519 females).

The media event included introduction of a new 26-foot trailer full of equipment used to conduct DUI checklanes throughout the county. All law enforcement agencies in the Sedgwick County area will have access to the trailer.

Authorities statewide often establish DUI checklanes at various times and in locations traveled by drunk drivers, based on crime and traffic statistics.

Hinshaw and Weilert stressed personal responsibility on two levels: Making transportation arrangements before leaving for an event where drinking will take place, and reporting impaired driving when observed.

The speakers urged the public to call a cab and arrange to pick up your car later.

“Maybe that’s an inconvenience, but it’s a lot more convenient than dealing with a DUI conviction,” Weilert said.

The national drunk driving crackdown, promoted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, combines high-visibility enforcement with heightened public awareness efforts. It is designed to put all drivers on notice that if they are caught driving impaired, they will be arrested

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