Law enforcement agencies are warning St. Patrick's Day revelers and those celebrating other March events to catch a sober ride and avoid a drunk driving arrest.
Agencies in 26 counties across Michigan are increasing patrols to combat drunk driving through April 7.
Police officers, sheriff deputies and Michigan State Police troopers from 144 agencies are conducting extra patrols to arrest impaired drivers during a time period that includes the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men's and womenâ??s basketball tournaments, high school and college spring break periods and St. Patrickâ??s Day.
A five-year review of crash data indicates both alcohol use and lack of seat belts play a significant role in fatal and serious injury crashes in March and early April.
The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) is coordinating the effort which is supported by federal traffic safety funds. This year, OHSP is partnering with the Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA) in Lansing and The Rapid in Grand Rapids. During the effort, CATA and The Rapid buses will feature signs encouraging people to catch a sober ride.
â??If alcohol is part of the festivities make sure you designate a sober driver to get you home safely,â?? said Michael L. Prince, OHSP director. â??A DUI costs a lot of green. CATA and The Rapid provide low-cost rides. Make the smart choice and catch a sober ride home.â??
In 2013, 2,271 people were arrested for drunk driving during the NCAA tournament time period. Of those, 671 were arrested under the stateâ??s high blood-alcohol content (BAC) law with BACs of .17 or higher. More than 500 of those arrests were made by grant-funded law enforcement agencies during last yearâ??s drunk driving crackdown.
Extra patrols are planned in Allegan, Berrien, Calhoun, Chippewa, Delta, Eaton, Genesee, Grand Traverse, Houghton, Ingham, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, Livingston, Macomb, Marquette, Monroe, Muskegon, Oakland, Ottawa, Saginaw, St. Clair, Van Buren, Washtenaw, Wayne and Wexford counties.
In Michigan, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher, although motorists can be arrested at any BAC level if an officer believes they are impaired. Motorists face enhanced penalties if arrested for a first-time drunk driving offense with a .17 BAC or higher.