State patrol

The holiday season is a time for traveling for most people and the Colorado State Patrol will be cracking down in an effort to help drivers and their passengers get over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house in one piece.

More than 8,000 law enforcement agencies are participating in the nation wide crack down on deadbeat drivers and drunk drivers in November.

The crackdown will take place from Nov. 20 through Nov. 26. Referred to as Operation ABC (America Buckles up Children) Mobilization. Officers for the first time ever will be after drivers who allow their children to ride without being buckled in and drunk drivers.

The welfare of children is at the heart of the program and agencies have declared zero tolerance for drivers who needlessly put children in danger either by drinking and driving or neglecting to ensure that children are properly restrained.

"Most children under age 14 killed in alcohol-related crashes are riding with a drunk driver, rather than riding in vehicles hit by drunk drivers," Jessica Blacksten, spokesperson for ABC said. "The more alcohol consumed by a driver, the less likely children passengers will be restrained."

The holidays are a time when many people get behind the wheel of a car after celebrating and for that reason ABC has decided to strategically begin their crackdown during right before Thanksgiving.

"This is a critical time to get the word out about law enforcement's effort and the seriousness with which officers are taking these infractions," Blacksten said.

Garry Torgerson is the Captain of the Colorado State Patrol (CSP) for Northwest Colorado. He said people need to think about safety before they jump behind the wheel during the holiday season.

"There are a lot of holiday parties and people need to be aware of designating a driver if they plan to drink," Torgerson said. "We are going to be out in full-force over the holiday weekends making sure that drivers are following the rules of the road and driving safely."

Torgerson said that wearing a safety belt is a critical step to making sure people arrive at their holiday designations safely. From personal knowledge he understands the importance of buckling up.

"We haven't had to unbuckle to many dead bodies to remove them from cars that have been in accidents," he said. "Most cars even after they have been in accidents have enough room in them for people to survive. Safety belts are critical for making sure drivers and passengers stay inside their cars especially in roll over type accidents."

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), traffic crashes are the leading cause of death to children, killing more than 2,000 kids each year. Their statistics show that nearly one fourth of these deaths are alcohol related and six out of ten children who die in crashes are completely unrestrained.

"Adults who knowingly put kids at risk by failing to buckle them up should be held accountable just like drunk drivers," Millie Webb, MADD National President said. "Strict enforcement of drunk driving and belt laws is the best way to protect innocent children and prevent devastating tragedies."

The crackdown may be especially pertinent in Colorado, according to statistics from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). Seatbelt and car seat use for children in Colorado decrease this year.

"Colorado has strong laws requiring children under the age of 16 to be properly restrained and law enforcement agencies take these laws very seriously," Tom Norton CDOT's executive director said. "The findings of this study show that we need to increase the safety funds directed into public education programs to try to increase use rates."

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