EDITORIAL: DUI enforcement

Tupelo Police Department’s DUI checkpoints initiative gives drunk drivers plenty to worry about this summer because the portable enforcement program can and will set up roadblocks across the city, especially on the busiest streets, to keep driving under the influence in check.
The federally funded program allows states to allocate money to law enforcement like the police department to pay overtime hours required for beefed-up DUI enforcement. The funds come from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Tupelo’s allocation, awarded after application, is $31,528 for the current fiscal year.
The police department records provide a good indicator of who past violators have been: white males between 25 and 35 are typical, but violators have included elderly drivers and underage drivers.
Police Chief Tony Carleton said emphasis will be placed on holidays like July 4 and Labor Day – prime times for hard partying, heavy traffic and alcohol mixed with driving.
The penalties for DUI are expensive, including first offenses:
– A fine from $250 to $1,000.
– Up to 48 hours in jail unless bail is made.
– License suspension for 90 days.
– Increased license suspension up to a year if a required rehabilitation course is not completed.
– Court costs and probably attorneys’ fees.
Subsequent offenses increase penalties, including jail time and potential loss of license.
DUI checkpoints are part of the NHTSA strategy to use high-visibility law enforcement with supporting communication campaigns to combat DUIs.
Special emphasis, significantly, is placed on high-risk populations like ages 21-34, which generally reflects Tupelo’s DUI records.
The Mississippi Highway Patrol reported eight fatalities during Memorial Day, and it made 117 arrests for DUI among the 4,643 citations issued.
Drivers, of course, can be arrested and charged for driving under the influence of other substances, principally prescription drugs and marijuana.
The NHTSA says that in a multi-state study of fatal crashes, almost one in five drivers (18 percent) had drugs other than alcohol in their bodies; prescription and illegal drugs were represented about equally. NHTSA says the most common drugs are cannabis (marijuana), minor tranquilizers, stimulants and opiates.
A recent newspaper article also reported that the American Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration showed that 16.6 percent of American drivers over the age of 21 admitted driving while under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs.
A police spokesman also offered a sensible reminder: If you go out for a good time and drink, get a non-drinking designated driver.

NEMS Daily Journal

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