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Police Plan Holiday Crackdown on Drunken Driving

The V.I. Police Department is launching its annual drive to crack down on people who have a little too much holiday spirit and take to the road impaired by alcohol or drugs.

The campaign, entitled "Over the Limit, Under Arrest," was announced at a press conference on St. Croix by Police Commissioner Novelle Francis Jr.

From Dec. 16 through Jan. 2, police will be on the road in force, holding traffic checkpoints, and waging an aggressive, high-profile campaign to encourage people who have been drinking or using any kind of drug to avoid getting behind the wheel.

It’s part of a national campaign involving thousands of law enforcement and highway safety agencies across the country. The program is organized by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Francis said that people who drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs aren’t just taking their own lives in their hands, they are also endangering the lives of every other person on the road.

"At this festive time of year people have a tendency to drink, to be happy, to be merry, but unfortunately sometimes at the expense of other people," Francis said.

St. Croix Traffic Commander Sgt. Joseph Platt and his St. Thomas counterpart, Sgt. Rosalyn Jarvis, echoed Francis’ call for responsible celebrating.

"We’re asking you to save a life," Jarvis said. "If you consume alcohol, take medication or a controlled substance, don’t drive. It’s that simple. Call a taxi, call a friend, call 911. Don’t drive."

Platt said police offcers in the territory have made 164 arrests so far this year, compared to 140 last year, indicating the department is working harder than ever to get drunken drivers off the road.

"We’re out there cracking down," he said.

He also reminded people that with the Crucian Christmas Festival coming in the middle of the holidays, the police offer the Safe Ride program at the festival grounds. People who do too much celebrating can go to the Safe Ride booth, and the police will make sure they get home safe and sound.

But for those who don’t get the message, Platt gave a preview of what they can expect.

A driver who gets pulled over at a traffic checkpoint and appears to be intoxicated will be given a field sobriety test. If he fails that test he will be arrested and given a breath test. The police now have a DUI van that includes all the equipment needed for the checkpoint, and room to hold several arrested drivers so that officers won’t have to shuttle back and forth between the checkpoint and the jail.

So anyone who is arrested can count on a wait before being taken to the station – and they’ll do that waiting in the company of other suspected drunk drivers.

The police offered several tips for avoiding that experience:

• Plan a safe way home before the festivities begin.

• Before drinking, designate a sober driver.

• Anyone who’s impaired should use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation.

• Use the Safe/Sober Rides program during the festival.

• If you happen to see a drunken driver on the road, call 911 immediately to report it.

• As the saying goes, "Friends don’t let friends drive drunk." If you know someone who is about to drive while impaired or ride with someone who is, take the keys and help them make other arrangements.

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