Law enforcement gears up for the holiday weekend
Local law enforcement agencies are advising residents to plan ahead this holiday weekend as officers will be out patrolling the roads and waterways.
In Florida, an estimated 1.45 million people are expected to travel via automobile between Friday and Monday, according to AAA Auto Club South. That is a 6.7 percent increase compared to last year’s holiday weekend. In total, about 1.58 million Floridians are expected to travel by vehicle, plane, bus or train for the Fourth of July — a 6.2 percent increase over 2009.
In response to the holiday, authorities are beefing up their presence and some are conducting special operations. The Cape Coral Police Department has no DUI checkpoints or saturation patrols planned for the weekend, but officers are keeping an eye out for intoxicated and aggressive motorists.
“Red, White & Boom! is very manpower intensive, so that’s kind of sapping our resources,” Capt. Mike Torregrossa said. “We’re making sure that none of our core services will be affected.”
Police stressed that there are a few things for locals to keep in mind.
“Be aware of special events in the community,” Torregrossa said. “During that time, it’s best if they look for alternate routes to avoid being caught in a traffic jam.”
People should also plan properly and use their best judgement.
“We understand that during this weekend time people will be out celebrating,” he said. “If you know you want to celebrate and partake in alcohol, plan that you have a designated driver or try carpooling.”
“Plan it out, be considerate of others and be safe,” Torregrossa said.
Sgt. Stephanie Eller, with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, took a similar view.
“We want everybody to have fun, but we want them to think ahead about how they’re going to have fun,” she said.
The LCSO also is focusing on a strong officer presence, both on land and water, during the holiday. Though no saturation patrols or DUI checkpoints are planned, deputies will be looking for impaired motorists, and Operation Boat Safe will be conducted throughout the weekend on local waterways.
“If you’re going to be drinking, don’t plan on driving. Get a designated driver or plan on getting a cab,” Eller said. “We don’t want anyone to get into any accidents.”
She added that the same rules that apply on land, apply on the water.
“There will be a lot more partying on the water, so we need to make sure everyone is staying safe out there,” Eller said.
During Operation Boat Safe, the LCSO in partnership with the Lee County Marine Task Force will promote a safe boating environment by concentrating their efforts within a specific time at an undisclosed location.Vessel safety inspections will be conducted. Violators of wake and speed zones, careless operation, and boating under the influence or BUI will be cited or charged.
The goals of the operation are to increase compliance and awareness of boating safety regulations, to prevent boating accidents through increased officer presence, to deter and detect careless and reckless operation, and to deter and detect impaired vessel operation, according to LCSO officials.
To help ensure a safe holiday weekend, Eller said drivers and passengers should always wear their seat belts and avoid distracted driving by not using a cell phone and not texting while driving. Boaters should wear their personal floatation devices, and a safety inspection is advised before disembarking.
“They make it dangerous for everyone else on the road around them,” she said of distracted drivers. “Don’t use a phone on the road.”
For pedestrians and bicyclists, the biggest tip is wear reflective clothing.
“Be very cautious,” Eller said. “Be aware of your surroundings.”
The Fort Myers Police Department will conduct a DUI saturation patrol over the holiday weekend, beginning Friday. This is the fourth operation for 2010.
“It’s not specific to this weekend,” police spokeswoman Shelly Flynn said.
The focus of the saturation patrol is to remove impaired drivers from the road, to reduce the likelihood that impaired drivers will operate vehicles, to raise awareness and to educate the public on the dangers of drunk driving.
The Florida Highway Patrol also will be out in full force this weekend for a statewide traffic enforcement initiative called Operation CARE, or Combined Accident Reduction Effort. According to a prepared statement, the focus is on violations for speed, failure to buckle up and driving under the influence.
“This initiative is part of a series of special enforcement efforts that help ensure the safety and well-being of motorists on Florida’s roadways,” Col. John Czernis, FHP director, wrote.
“Our troopers will take appropriate enforcement action on those drivers who put themselves and others in danger,” he wrote. “We want everyone to have a safe traveling experience in our state as they enjoy the holiday weekend.”
To report an aggressive or impaired motorist, dial 911. Mention the Mothers Against Drunk Driving Mobile Eyes program and be eligible for a cash reward. Within the city of Fort Myers, call the department directly at 321-7700. To report a reckless boater, call 911 by phone or via radio on VHF Channel 16.