13 Coloradans killed in 2012, 138 nationally.
The Labor Day holiday means a welcome three-day weekend, crowds at big annual events like Taste of Colorado, and unfortunately, a higher risk for DUI related accidents on Colorado’s roads. During the Labor Day weekend of 2012, the Colorado State Patrol reported 1400 arrests for drunk driving. That is more arrests than St. Patrick’s Day and the Memorial Day weekend combined. There were also 13 Labor Day weekend deaths attributable directly to drunk driving, according to the Colorado State Patrol. Nationally, there were 138 deaths over the Labor Day weekend of 2011. These numbers are significant and serve as an important reminder to be especially vigilant this holiday weekend.
This weekend there will be “sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols, and increased DUI enforcement throughout the state,” as part of the Colorado State Patrol’s “The Heat is On” campaign set up to catch impaired drivers. The effort actually began August 16th, and drivers are taking notice.
Mohammed Hussein drives a cab in downtown Denver. “There’s always one (checkpoint) at 20th and Wazee, just before I-25 and down at Speer and Logan.” Hussein plans to drive this weekend, and knows the risks. “I’ll work during the day. After 7pm is worse. You can smell the alcohol (on passengers). Sometimes they ask you the same question two or three times. People get in your cab for four or five blocks and get dropped off at their cars.”
Fellow cab driver Mohammed Osman agrees. “There’s more money to be made (at night), but also more danger.”
The thirty-eight states (and Washington D.C.) that participate in sobriety checkpoint programs have reduced fatal drunk driving crashes significantly, according to MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. “The idea is to publicize checkpoints ahead of time, in order to deter people from driving drunk and encourage them to plan ahead for a non-drinking designated driver,” said MADD National President Jan Withers.
Colonel Scott Hernandez, Chief of the Colorado State Patrol, says the high-profile checkpoints are intentional. “Law enforcement is aware that high-visibility enforcement reduces impaired driving fatalities by as much as 20 percent. It’s a very simple safe driving message, ‘Don’t Drink and Drive.’”
*Image Source: USDOT National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.