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Police Begin Crackdown on Drunk Driving

Aug. 16, 2007 — Drunk drivers will face an especially unpleasant next few weeks as the territory's roads will be closely monitored as part of a national effort the V.I. Police Department is joining to keep drunk drivers off the roads.
The nationwide program — "Drunk Driving. Over the limit. Under arrest." — specifically targets the Labor Day holiday. It will begin Friday and run through Sept. 3.
The police department means business, said Commissioner James McCall on Wednesday.
"Make no mistake," he said. "Our message is simple. No matter what you drive — a passenger car, pickup, sport-utility vehicle or motorcycle — if we catch you driving impaired, we will arrest you. No exceptions. No excuses."
A person is considered legally drunk when his or her alcohol level — called the blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) — exceeds 0.08. National figures show that about 13,000 people were killed in highway crashes involving an impaired driver with a 0.08 or higher BAC in 2004.
In the Virgin Islands over the last four years, there have been 211 alcohol-related auto accidents, resulting in six fatalities and 78 injuries, according to VIPD statistics.
The initiative also focuses on other problem drivers, including speeders and other violators. Checkpoints will be set up at random locations every night of the initiative, said Charles Orange, VIPD traffic-investigation officer. While at the checkpoints, officers will check vehicles and drivers for all traffic violations.
Drivers will be subjected to a field sobriety test once they exhibit drunken behavior, such as slurred speech. "If they fail that test, they are automatically under arrest," Orange said. Once arrested, the police administer the blood-alcohol test
"The driver can be released $1,000 bond, or if they don't have the bail, a Virgin Islands driver's license will do,” he said. “Otherwise the person will be placed in jail."
A fact sheet on the federal program listed some tips for drivers:
— If you plan to consume alcohol when out, designate a sober driver and give the person your keys;
— Call a taxi or a friend if you find yourself impaired;
— If you see another person driving drunk, report it to the police;
— Wear your seatbelt, or helmet on a motorcycle. This is your best defense against a drunk driver;
— Most importantly, remember “friends don't let friends drive drunk.” If you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements.
Thomas Louizou, eastern region administrator for the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration, accompanied local police officials Wednesday as they announced the initiative.
The territory joins some 10,000 law-enforcement agencies in the initiative nationwide. The initiative is supported by $11 million in paid national advertising to help put everyone on notice of the program, according to a police department news release.
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