For the past few weeks the Howell Police Department has been taking part in the "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over," program, which Sgt. Joseph Markulic said is an effort to crack down on drinking and driving.
The program wraps up this weekend as the department will be working to ensure everyone has a safe holiday weekend on the township's roads. We're going to be out in force," he said. "Think twice, have a good holiday season and don't drink and drive."
Markulic said the campaign is being conducted not only in Howell but across the country and will include "high visibility enforcement, high-profile events and will be supported by national paid advertising." The program runs through Labor Day Weekend in an effort to keep drivers safe through the end of the summer.
In 2010 Markulic said more than 10 thousand people died when a driver or motorcycle rider was impaired. "On average there is one alcohol impaired driving-related fatality every 51 minutes across America but this tragic loss of life can be reduced if we get impaired drivers off our roadways," he said.
Over Labor Day weekend alone in 2010 Markulic said 147 people were killed in crashes involving people with blood alcohol contents of .08 or higher. Of those, he said 80 percent happened between 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m.
The hope is that this concerted effort by law enforcement will reduce that. "Research has shown that high-visibility enforcement like the 'Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over' campaign reduces alcohol-impaired driving fatalities by as much as 20 percent," Markulic said. "By joining this nationwide effort, we will make Howell Township's roadways safer for everyone throughout the Labor Day period."
Last year the nationwide "Over the Limit, Under Arrest" program resulted in 1,437 DWI arrests, which Markulic said was down from 1,707 arrests the year before. He added 5,966 speeding tickets and 3,684 seat belt summonses were also issued as part of the program.
On the local level he said there were 10 DWI arrests in Howell, 23 felony arrests, nine drug arrests and 34 fugitives were arrested. There were also 300 traffic tickets issued.
Sgt. Markulic said he was hopeful this year's program would help encourage drivers to travel the township's roads safely. "Obviously we want to remind everyone that it is illegal to drive impaired, and we hope the campaign will remind people that if they plan on drinking, to never get behind the wheel," he said. "But if someone does choose to drive impaired, we will arrest them. No warnings. No excuses."
Those people who are arrested or charged during the program face a variety of penalties including jail time, loss of their drivers licenses and "steep financial consequences," Markulic said.
That can include higher insurance rates, attorney fees and court costs as well as lost time at work and the potential loss of a job. "When family, friends and co-workers find out, violators also often face tremendous personal embarrassment," he said.
Markulic said drivers should be aware that officers in town and throughout the area will be on the lookout for anyone driving impaired. "We are out there and additional patrols will be out there and looking for you," he said. "And we'll see you before you see us."
More information can be found on the program's website.