DWI crackdown set for next two weeks

E. Bruns., Old Bridge, Monroe step up patrols through Labor Day

East Brunswick, Monroe and Old Bridge are among the local towns whose police departments will step up their patrols over the coming two weeks to crack down on drunk driving.

The police departments have received state grants that will fund overtime so that additional police officers can be out on patrol making arrests for driving while intoxicated (DWI). The program, which is called “Over the Limit Under Arrest 2008 Statewide Crackdown,” will begin Aug. 15 and run through Sept. 1, which is Labor Day.

Statewide, local and state law enforcement officers will conduct sobriety checkpoints and use extra patrols, looking for motorists who may be driving while intoxicated.

East Brunswick and Monroe police plan to use roving patrols instead of checkpoints, officers from both departments said.

“We’ll be using extra patrols,” said Lt. Marc Jimenez of the Monroe Township Police Department. “These officers will be in addition to our regular patrols.”

East Brunswick Patrolman Christopher Soke said most of his department’s extra patrols will take place during the times when most drunk driving occurs.

“[The added officers will work] from the mid-evening hours into the early morning hours, predominantly on the weekends and weekend nights, and the busiest times,” Soke said.

State police troopers will also be stepping up enforcement efforts, but those are separate from the local police departments.

A concentrated national effort, the “Over the Limit” campaign is designed to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving through high-visibility enforcement and public education tools such as posters, banners and mobile video display signs, according to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office. Launched nationally in 1999, the program combats drunk driving during some of the busiest travel times of the year.

“New Jersey’s drunk driving laws are among the toughest in the nation” said New Jersey Director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety Pam Fischer. “This initiative increases public awareness not only about the serious fines and penalties drunk drivers can face, but the grave danger these motorists pose to all individuals on the road.”

As part of the national initiative, the Division of Highway Safety provides grants to local law enforcement agencies throughout the state to run the two-week campaign.

Impaired drivers kill nearly 18,000 people nationally each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In 2007, some 205 people were killed as a result of alcohol-related crashes on New Jersey highways. That number represents 28 percent of the 724 traffic fatalities reported in the state. In addition, 82 of those alcohol-related fatalities occurred during the summer travel season.

New Jersey law states that a person is guilty of drunk driving if he or she operates a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or greater.

First offense penalties for those with a BAC of between .08 and .10 percent face fines of $250-$400; imprisonment up to 30 days; three months driver’s license suspension; a minimum of six hours per day for two consecutive days in an intoxicated driver resource center; and an auto insurance surcharge of $1,000 per year for three years. For those with a BAC above .10 percent, the first-offense fine is $300- $500; imprisonment up to 30 days; seven months to a year driver’s license suspension; a minimum of six hours per day for two consecutive days in an intoxicated driver resource center; and an auto insurance surcharge of $1,000 per year for three years. Any offense also carries surcharges and fees totaling $375 to various funds and agencies.

Law enforcement agencies participating in the campaign offered the following advice for those planning to drink: Choose a designated driver before going out; take mass transit, a taxicab, or ask a sober friend to drive you home; spend the night where the activity is held; report impaired drivers to law enforcement; always buckle up, every ride.

Brian Donahue