Highway safety officials plan Labor Day crackdown

Eunice Marie Dupre
August 26, 2008
Stephen Michael Eschete
August 28, 2008
Eunice Marie Dupre
August 26, 2008
Stephen Michael Eschete
August 28, 2008

Law enforcement across Louisiana are participating in an intensive 22-day enforcement and public awareness campaign to remove drunken drivers from the state’s roads, the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission announced today. The campaign encompasses the three-day Labor Day weekend.

During last year’s Labor Day weekend, 21 people in Louisiana were killed in alcohol-related crashes – more than during any other holiday period.

The total number of fatalities more than doubled that of the 2007 Mardi Gras weekend, which is traditionally one of the worst for alcohol-related highway deaths in Louisiana.

The Louisiana campaign, “Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest,” will run through Sept. 13 and is part of a nationwide effort sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Through the program, LHSC provides grants to pay for overtime patrols dedicated to getting intoxicated drivers off the roads. The enforcement wave includes increasing patrols in every region of the state and establishing sobriety checkpoints at which officers will look out for intoxicated drivers.

The crackdown is backed up by a statewide TV and radio advertising campaign that warns motorists of the dangers of driving while intoxicated.

More than 80 percent of people killed on Louisiana’s roads during the 2007 Labor Day weekend were in crashes that involved alcohol.

It’s our goal to save lives, and that’s what the “Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest” campaign is all about. Officers are going to be out in force and on the lookout for drunken motorists. If you’re caught driving while intoxicated, you’re going to jail.

Because of a new, tough DWI law in Louisiana, DWI offenders have more to worry about than going to jail.

Under the law, which took effect on Aug. 15, 2007, drivers convicted of first-offense DWI in Louisiana have their license suspended for one year. The law also requires that DWI offenders whose licenses are suspended to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles for one year, if they are granted a “hardship license.”

Ignition interlocks prevent people who have alcohol in their system from driving a vehicle. A driver breathes into an interlock device to determine blood alcohol concentration. If a measurable amount of alcohol is in the blood, the vehicle does not start.

Drivers whose licenses are suspended because of a DWI conviction or arrest often apply for a “hardship license,” which allows the person to drive to certain locations such as to a job or a doctor’s office.

The Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles, which tracks installation of ignition interlocks, reports that more than 14,000 of the devices were ordered installed since Aug. 15 of last year.

DWI offenders are required to pay for installation and maintenance of the devices on top of fines, court costs and other penalties associated with a DWI conviction. Our DWI law is one of the toughest in the nation.

Law enforcement and the Louisiana justice system are working together to make it tougher for drunken drivers to get behind the wheel. Don’t find this out the hard way.

Under the new law, persons convicted of first-offense DWI now face penalties and expenses that can include fines, time in jail, attorney’s fees, license reinstatement fees, court fees, towing and impoundment fees, suspension of driver’s license for one year, and installation of an ignition interlock if they are granted a hardship license.

On top of those penalties, some judges order offenders to attend and pay for a variety of classes, undergo substance abuse evaluations and perform many hours of community service.

Another provision of the new law doubles the term of a license suspension for second-time offenders from 12 months to 24 months, and for third-time offenders 24 months to 36 months.

The time that second and third offenders must use ignition interlock devices if they are granted hardship licenses also increases.

Drunken driving is a year-round problem in Louisiana and across the United States. Last year, 485 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes in Louisiana.

In 2006-the most recent year for which national crash data is available – there were more than 17,000 alcohol-related crash deaths nationwide.