Think before drinking, driving this Labor Day

Although driving while intoxicated is a high-risk activity that endangers the lives of innocent people, it is a frequently committed offense – especially in south Louisiana.

Statistics show more than 20,000 motorists were arrested for DWI in Louisiana in 2008. Of that, 449 people didn’t make it home to their families as a result of an alcohol-related crash.

That’s too many unnecessary deaths.

This Labor Day weekend, law enforcement’s focus will be on those driving while impaired. Be it known, however, drunk driving is not tolerated in the Tri-parishes at any time – holiday or not.

To drive the message home to those who just don’t realize how much their actions affect others, local law enforcement agencies are heightening their patrol efforts.

Louisiana State Police Troop C spokesman Gilbert Dardar said troopers work every day to reduce drunk driving on the roads.

Over the holiday weekend, troopers will launch pro-active tactics to ensure motorists’ safety. Those caught driving drunk won’t get a slap on the wrist thanks to recent legislative efforts, which have implemented stricter penalties for those arrested, especially repeat offenders, according to Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, Executive Director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission.

The increased penalties include an automatic 15-day jail sentence for people driving while their license is suspended for a previous DWI.

Residents can no longer refuse a Breathalyzer test, either. Those who refuse to take a blood alcohol concentration test run the risk of having their license suspended for a year. The old legislation suspended licenses for half that period.

According to Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre, the new legislation helps local law enforcement by bringing the hammer of justice down upon those who choose to risk their lives and those of innocent passersby whom they happen to share the road with.

Last week, Lafourche held its own DWI deterrence program, Operation Rolling Thunder. Webre said it was his agency’s part in a campaign sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Likewise, the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office is stepping up its patrols. Department spokesman Maj. Malcolm Wolfe is advising those who choose to drink to have a designated driver.

It’s good advice. After all, what’s worse, having a loved ones be angry with you for taking his or her keys after they’ve consumed too much alcohol? Or having them be a danger to others on the roadway and ending someone’s life way too soon?

We hope you’ll choose the latter this holiday. No one wants to get that unexpected call that their loved one will not be returning home because of a drunk driver this Labor Day weekend.

We ask that residents be safe. If you drink, don’t drive.