Safe and Sober campaign kicks off

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 21, 2006

By Kari Lucin, staff writer

Local law enforcement will be extra vigilant for the next two weeks as part of a Safe and Sober program aimed at cutting down the number of DUIs.

&8220;What we’d like to do is change people’s driving behaviors, so they make a smart decision not to drink and drive, that they make other arrangements for transportation &045; a sober cab, a designated driver, walking,&8221; said Lt. Jeff Strom of the Albert Lea Police Department.

ALPD and the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office will be checking for impaired behavior like weaving on the road, driving without headlights or speeding. If any traffic violation is committed and an officer determines the driver is under the influence, the driver can be arrested.

The extra attentiveness is part of the Safe and Sober program, which will eventually fund overtime hours for law enforcement officers to spend more time enforcing traffic laws to prevent drinking and driving. The funding doesn’t begin until October, however.

Safe and Sober is a federal program through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

It is coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and will include more than 400 law enforcement agencies statewide. The program is designed to reduce traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries.

&8220;A good rule of thumb is, if you’re drinking, just don’t drive. Make advance arrangements to get to where you’re going,&8221; Strom said. &8220;The whole key to the deal is planning. Plan ahead.&8221;

For a single DUI, drivers can lose their licenses for 90 days. If they’re at twice the legal limit &045;

recently lowered from .10 blood alcohol to .08 &045; they can lose their license for 180 days. They can also be fined a maximum of $1,000 and spend 90 days in jail. If drivers get two DUIs within 10 years, it’s considered a gross misdemeanor, and they can have their driver’s license revoked, be fined $3,000 or go to jail for a year.

The state reports there were over 1,500 DUI arrests under .10 in 2005.