Police in North Bergen, just like in many other towns, will conduct sobriety checkpoints and dispatch roving patrols during Labor Day weekend. This is a part of a concentrated national campaign, “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” announced on Aug. 16 by the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety.
The campaign was first launched in 1999 to prevent drunk driving during one of the busiest travel times of the year. The crackdowns began on Aug. 17 and will continue until Sept. 3.
Last year, during the campaign, North Bergen arrested 11 people for DWI and caught 13 speeding.
“We’re out there, we’re watching, and if you’re drinking and driving, we will catch you,” said Detective Frank Mena of the Traffic Division of the North Bergen PD.
One drink can impair judgment
“Many people believe that after a few drinks they’re still safe to drive,” said Division of Highway Traffic Safety Acting Director Gary Poedubicky last week. “Even one drink can impair your judgment and reaction time, putting not only yourself, but everyone on the road, in danger.”
According to a press release, in 2010 alcohol-impaired fatalities accounted for 20 percent of New Jersey’s motor vehicle fatalities.
To counteract the magnitude of fatalities, the Division of Highway Traffic Safety provides grants to local law enforcement agencies throughout the state to run the two-week campaign.
“We’re out there, we’re watching and if you’re drinking and driving we will catch you.” - Detective Frank Mena
More than $750,000 has been distributed to 172 participating agencies in the form of $4,400 grants from the Division and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Statistics from the NHTSA show that the number of alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities in New Jersey has fallen. But traffic safety officials say the numbers are still too high.
The press release states that in 2010, 153 people died in crashes in which a driver or motorcycle operator was at or above a BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) of .08, which is the legal limit in all 50 states.
According to the latest national data, nearly a third of fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes involved a driver with a BAC above the legal limit – an average of one drunk-driving related fatality every 51 minutes throughout the year. The age group with the highest percentage of alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities nationally was 21-24.
“All too often, innocent, law-abiding people suffer tragic consequences and the loss of loved ones due to this careless disregard for human life,” said Poedubicky. “Twice as many alcohol-impaired crashes occur over the weekend and four times as many occur at night.”
‘Even if you beat the odds…’
The grant money funds 88 hours of law enforcement in North Bergen. The town receives a worksheet that must be marked with the summons and arrests.
“Our message is simple and unwavering: if law enforcement finds you driving impaired, whether by alcohol or drugs, they will arrest you. No exceptions,” said Poedubicky. “Even if you beat the odds and manage to walk away from an impaired-driving crash alive, the trauma and financial costs of a crash or an arrest for driving while impaired can still destroy your life. The fine is only the beginning.”
What to do
Law enforcement agencies offer the following advice:
• Take mass transit, a taxi, or ask a sober friend to drive you home.
• Spend the night rather than getting behind the wheel.
• Report impaired drivers to law enforcement. In New Jersey, drivers may dial #77 to report a drunk or aggressive driver.
• Always buckle up, every ride, regardless of your seating position in the vehicle. It’s your best defense against an impaired driver.
• If you’re intoxicated and traveling on foot, the safest way to get home is to take a cab or have a sober friend or family member or escort you to your doorstep.
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at email@example.com