Awareness, enforcement priorities for drunk, drugged driving prevention

Awareness, enforcement priorities for drunk, drugged driving prevention The holiday season often means holiday parties, which can mean more drinking and driving.

To help raise awareness of the dangers of driving under the influence, Gov. Bill Janklow has proclaimed the month of December as "Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month" in South Dakota.

"Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is extremely dangerous and irresponsible, and the consequences are very serious," Janklow said. "Since 1993 in South Dakota, alcohol-involved crashes have claimed the lives of 449 people and injured 7,963 more."

State and local law enforcement agencies are joining forces on a high-visibility campaign to combat drunk driving this holiday season.

During the week of Dec. 11-17, the South Dakota Highway Patrol along with several sheriff's offices and police departments teamed up to conduct 28 sobriety check points across the state. Twenty-five DWI saturation patrols are scheduled throughout the month as well.

The South Dakota Highway Patrol will also be activating a second B.A.T. Mobile (Blood Alcohol Testing Mobile Unit). The B.A.T. Mobiles are used in conjunction with sobriety checkpoints throughout South Dakota and have been a valuable tool in the fight against the drunk driver.

"We can do blood tests at the scene of the arrests, process the arrests and do reports. The van even has a temporary jail," says Highway Patrol Chief Tom Dravland. "Prior to the units, if an officer made an arrest for DUI, he had to leave the checkpoint to transport the prisoner to jail and the direct result would be we would have to shut down the checkpoint for lack of manpower."

Enforcement is only part of the solution and the Highway Patrol will be conducting a public awareness media campaign throughout the month. Radio spots will get the message out about drunk and drugged driving as well as other life saving issues such as the importance of using seat belts and child restraints, tips for safe winter driving and the need to yield to emergency vehicles on the road.

Janklow is also proclaiming Friday, Dec. 15 as "Lights on for Life Day," asking South Dakota motorists to drive with their headlights on during that day in memory of those killed or injured in drug or alcohol related crashes.

"In 1999, 41 percent of the traffic deaths in South Dakota were alcohol related," Janklow said. "Each and every one of them could have been prevented. Alcohol and drug impaired drivers must be stopped before they kill themselves or someone else."

Sixty-two individuals died in alcohol-related crashes in 1999 and another 1,027 were injured.

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