Federal grants boost efforts to combat drunken driving

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Extra patrols will enforce the laws against driving while intoxicated.

Area police agencies have some advice for people prone to drink and drive: Beware.

For 18 days beginning Friday, extra patrols will enforce the laws against driving while intoxicated. Federal grants, distributed by the Missouri Division of Highway Safety, will help pay the overtime for increased vigilance.

The Cape Girardeau Police Department received $1,000, the Jackson Police Department got $800 and the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department will use $2,500 to target drunken drivers, said Mike Breckle, operations specialist with the safety division.

The extra enforcement is part of a national "You Drink & Drive, You Lose" campaign, Breckle said. In all, nearly $250,000 is being distributed to Missouri police agencies. The effort will be backed up by national TV ads and state-paid radio spots.

"What we are really trying to do this year is create a big push to keep this enforcement sustained throughout the year," Breckle sad.

In Cape Girardeau, police warn that anyone under the influence when an officer pulls them over will be arrested. And while officers won't be specifically assigned to patrol near bars, "most officers know where the biggest problem is," said Sgt. Jack Wimp, head of traffic enforcement.

Drivers with a blood-alcohol content higher than .08 are considered impaired under state law. For most people, that is two to three drinks in a one-hour period.

Sobriety checkpoint

While most of the effort will be patrol enforcement, Cape Girardeau police will hold a sobriety checkpoint soon within city limits in conjunction with the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Under Missouri law, first-time offenders face a 30-day license suspension, followed by restricted driving privileges.

Second offenders can receive a fine of up to $1,000, a year-long license revocation and up to a year in jail. Second-time offenders are also required to install ignition interlock devices, which prevent cars from starting when the driver has alcohol on their breath.

A third offense is a felony, with a fine of up to $5,000, a 10-year license denial and up to seven years in prison.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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