By JEFF SWANSON
Daily Press writer
Drivers across the state will want to be extra careful this holiday season, as law enforcement agencies will once again hold roadside safety checkpoints in an attempt curb drunk driving.
The Colorado State Patrol and 52 Colorado police and sheriff's departments have been the recipients of Law Enforcement Assistance Fund (LEAF) grants, which are administered by the Colorado Department of Transportation to help fund additional officers during the holiday season.
Last year, 47 people died on Colorado highways during the month of December, and 13 of those fatalities were alcohol-related.
Colorado drivers can be arrested for Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) for having a blood-alcohol level above a .05, or for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) if a driver's blood-alcohol level exceeds .10.
"We are going to be aware of the increased number of holiday revelers on the roadways, but here in Northwest Colorado we are kind of lucky," Colorado State Patrol Sergeant Hank Chase said. "I think people up here have finally gotten the message that drinking and driving doesn't pay. We really don't have a large problem in this part of the state."
According to Chase, Moffat County boasts the lowest number of alcohol-related automobile accidents in the state.
"I personally think that is a statistic that people up here should be proud of," he said. "Over the holidays, we do stop some people, but most of the time there is a designated driver at the wheel. There may be a car full of drunks, but we'd rather have that than the alternative."
If traveling to the Denver-metro area this weekend, drivers should be aware of Operation Office Party Weekend, part of Colorado's annual "The Heat Is On" campaign.
Last year, agencies participating in "The Heat Is On" campaign made 330 DUI arrests during Office Party Weekend.
"We are not going to be doing any roadblocks for this particular weekend," Chase said. "We really don't have too many office parties that go on in this area."
Agencies will also conduct a special DUI enforcement period during the New Year's Eve holiday weekend, beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 28, and ending at 3 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 1.
Last year agencies made 394 arrests during the New Year's Eve enforcement period.
"We really want to deter people from drinking and driving more than anything," said Sergeant Craig LeVere of the Colorado State Patrol. "If we don't do anything our biggest fear is that the fatality numbers will skyrocket."
Chase does recommend a few tips for partiers who plan on taking to the road this holiday season.
"First off, don't drink and drive. The majority of the people who get picked up are people that do this over and over," he said. "If you constantly drink and drive, you will get caught.
"If you want to have a good time go for it," he said. "Just make sure that someone else is doing the driving. People who drink and drive are like a loaded weapon that eventually is going to go off and something bad is going to happen.
"Be safe and smart, because you are not only gambling with your own life you are gambling with the lives of others as well."