Feds Kick Off Drunk Driving Initiative in Arlington


(Tuesday, August 21, 2007 6:00 AM EDT

Thinking of drinking and driving? Think again.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently launched its nationwide “Drunk Driving, Over the Limit, Under Arrest” crackdown at the Arlington County Justice Center, and law enforcement and highway safety agencies are poised to stop any offenders.

The crackdown runs from Aug. 17 through the Labor Day holiday.

“This crackdown is important. It's penalties imposed when you break the law that make changes,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters. “For all of you out there who choose to drink and drive, the officers will catch [you] and will put you in jail.”

Arlington Police Chief Douglas Scott noted that the Justice Center was a particularly fitting place to launch the campaign.

“This weekend there was a fatal accident, and the motorist is incarcerated in this building,” he said. “I hope we can convince people that drinking and driving is costly and deadly.”

While previous crackdowns focused on law enforcement, this year there also is a focus on other elements involved in keeping drunk drivers off the streets, said NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason.

“It's not just law enforcement. It's prosecutors, probation officers and judges,” she said. “Our intent is to raise public awareness and also promote individual action to modify behavior.”

Law enforcement and highway safety agencies such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Governors Highway Safety Association and Mothers Against Drunk Driving are participating in the crackdown.

Joseph Carter, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, championed NHTSA's proactive approach to stopping drunk driving.

“We must work together to stop the menace. We know aggressive enforcement works,” he said. “Sobriety checkpoints are an effective method.”

MADD national president Glynn Birch, mentioned roving patrols, high-visibility law enforcement, alcohol ignition interlocks and advanced alcohol-detection technology as other effective ways to stop drunk driving.

And if the concept of putting lives at risk is not enough to make drunk drivers rethink their actions, officials said they hope the financial repercussions might be a deterrent.

“A first time DWI arrest can cost $10,000,” Secretary Peters said. “If people won't stop for the right reason, they might because of the cost. Can you really afford to be arrested for a DWI?”

For more information on “Drunk Driving, Over the Limit, Under Arrest,” see the Web site at www.stopimpaireddriving.org.

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