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Be careful – DUI patrols in full gear during holidays

Starting on Thanksgiving and running through New Year’s Day, 16 Statewide DUI Task Forces have targeted alcohol and drug impaired drivers with saturation patrols and checkpoints across Arizona.

As director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, my agency’s charge is to use earmarked federal dollars to provide overtime, equipment, DUI command vans and training to thousands of police officers, highway patrolmen and deputy sheriffs for DUI enforcement. Additionally, my agency provides DUI law training to municipal and county prosecutors.

Our enforcement efforts are not geared toward setting record DUI arrests. Rather, our goals are to keep our streets and highways safe and to educate the public on the dangers of drinking and driving, so the rest of us can all enjoy the holidays.

I now have six of my grandchildren driving, and I want them to be safe. Our message is clear, if you are going to celebrate and drink too much, arrange for someone to be a sober designated driver from your group of friends or family, take a cab, public transportation or call someone to take you home.

This holiday season, my office formed a partnership with the Beverage Alcohol Community Information Council (BACIC). This group, composed of restaurant, bar, hospitality and tourism sectors, has come together to launch a pilot program to distribute vouchers in select entertainment areas, to transport party-goers and their vehicles home safely. BACIC also will promote responsible alcohol consumption through education, public awareness and community outreach events.

This year, my office partnered with the Arizona Cardinals on their “Designated Drivers Sign Up Program” at home football games, and thousands of fans who drink agreed to do so responsibly.

So far, our numbers show that from Thanksgiving to mid-December, 2,100 DUI arrests were made statewide as a result of 30,000 traffic stops by dozens of law enforcement agencies. This includes almost 450 extreme DUI arrests (.15 BAC or above) and more than 200 DUI drug arrests.

Let’s enjoy the holidays by preventing tragedies, and not becoming a statistic. And remember: If you drive hammered, you’ll get nailed.

-Alberto Gutier is director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety

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