Law enforcement gears up for holiday weekend
As the clock winds down to midnight tonight, motorists are reminded to be responsible with their celebrating and to never drink and drive.
The Cape Coral Police Department, Fort Myers Police Department and Florida Highway Patrol are stepping up their enforcement efforts for New Year’s Eve to ensure the safety of everyone on the road. Using saturation patrols or by increasing officers, the agencies are cracking down on impaired motorists.
“Being New Year’s Eve, we want everyone to have a safe and happy new year,” Cape police Capt. Lisa Barnes said. “Our goal is hopefully, through education, to keep impaired drivers off the road.”
“But, we will take enforcement action when necessary,” she added.
From sundown today to about 4 a.m. Saturday, the CCPD will conduct traffic saturation patrols throughout the city. In saturation patrols, there is no specific checkpoint, only roving patrols. Officers will target drivers who appear to be under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both.
“We’re going to be looking for impaired drivers,” Barnes said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Association reported there were 2,558 accidents on Florida roadways in 2009. Of those 2,558 crashes, about 30 percent of the drivers — 770 — had a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher.
FHP officials also announced plans to conduct a roving DUI enforcement detail on New Year’s Eve. According to Capt. Tim Culhane, the operation will take place across Lee County from 7 p.m. today until Saturday morning.
“It’s obviously a time when most people are off and they’re going to be out partying and having fun over the holiday period,” he said. “We want everyone to get home and get home home safely.”
According to FHP statistics, more than 59 percent of traffic fatalities during the 2009 New Year’s Day holiday period were alcohol related.
As a “wolfpack” operation, FHP deputies will rove without a fixed location.
“It allows us to cover a much larger area while we’re doing DUI enforcement,” Culhane said.
According to FHP officials, the objective of the enforcement detail is to reduce alcohol related traffic fatalities, traffic crashes and other criminal activities. Reducing the deaths and injuries associated with impaired driving is one of the law enforcement agency’s goals.
Beginning today, the Fort Myers police will deploy additional officers to patrol city streets and look for impaired motorists throughout the weekend.
“The saturation patrol is an effort to make New Year’s Eve safer by cracking down on impaired driving,” Shelly Flynn, spokeswoman for the department, wrote in a prepared statement.
The enforcement also will improve traffic safety by removing impaired drivers from the road, reducing the likelihood impaired drivers will operate vehicles, heightening awareness and educating the public on the dangers of drunk driving.
“During the holiday season, and year-round, take steps to make sure that you and everyone you celebrate with avoid driving under the influence,” Flynn wrote.
FMPD officials suggested the following:
n Plan ahead: Always designate a non-drinking driver before any holiday party or celebration begins.
n Take the keys: Do not let a friend or family member drive if they are impaired.
n Be a helpful host: If you are hosting a party, remind your guests to plan ahead and designate their sober driver, always offer alcohol-free beverages and make sure all your guests leave with a sober driver.
“There’s all those options to not drink and driver,” Barnes said.
Up though Jan. 2, AAA Auto Club South is offering its Tow to Go program free of charge. It provides a confidential ride home and tow to anyone who may have had too much to drink. It is open to members and non-members.
“No matter what, we do not want people drinking and driving,” she said. “Be cognizant, be responsible.”