Troopers start 18-day DWI crackdown

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 22, 2009


LAPLACE — State Troopers and police officers from 74 agencies across Louisiana are planning for an excess of overtime work as part of an 18-day crackdown on drunken driving in preparation for the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Troopers and other law enforcement officers will be putting in 8,100 overtime hours as they scour the state’s roadway looking out for alcohol or drug-impaired motorists. The 18-day blitz began Friday and will run through Labor Day, Sept. 7.

“We are going to be stepping up enforcement of DWI laws and there will be a zero tolerance policy,” Said Lt. Doug Cain, chief spokesman for Louisiana State Police. “We are going to take impaired drivers off the road for their safety and the safety of others.”

The increased overtime will be paid for with a $96,000 federal grant.

The operation is part of a national safety program known as “Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest,” an annual Labor Day weekend campaign sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“It’s a high-visibility, large scale enforcement program to help prevent drunk driving accidents and injuries,” said Jamie Ainsworth, a spokesman for the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission (LHSC). “It is an unfortunately large problem in the state.”

Statistics from the LHSC show that in 2008, 49 percent of the state’s highway fatalities were a result of alcohol-related crashes. State records show that there were 449 highway fatalities reported in the state last year.

Statistics further show that the problem escalates around the Labor Day Holiday. In 2008, there were four fatalities and 55 injuries as a result of alcohol-related crashes in that weekend, and 16 fatalities and 99 injuries in 2007.

In St. John Parish, traffic division deputies will initiate a DWI checkpoint somewhere in the parish on Friday Aug. 28 in connection with the statewide crackdown.

In addition to enforcement, State Police said the operation will also consist of educational components and public service announcements to warn drivers of the increased presence on the roads. The crackdown is a good opportunity to let drivers know about new highway laws that go into affect this year, Cain said.

The new measures impose a 15-day jail sentence for anyone caught driving with a suspended license stemming from a previous DWI charge. The sentence jumps to 60 days in incidents involving manslaughter, negligent homicide or vehicular homicide. Troopers will also enforce a one-year suspension for anyone who refuses to take a blood alcohol concentration test.

State Police and local law enforcement encourage anyone who has had too much to drink to get someone else to drive or call a cab. In some cases, even a call to 911 will get you a ride home.