(Host) State and local police officers will be out in force this weekend.
As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, they hope DUI checkpoints and added patrols will encourage Vermonters not to drink and drive.
(Keck) In Vermont last year, 74 people died in traffic accidents. About a third of those accidents were alcohol related.
State police Sergeant Garry Scott says, thanks to federal grant money, more local and state law enforcement officers will be on the lookout for impaired drivers this weekend.
He says that while alcohol-related traffic fatalities dropped dramatically in the 1980s after the drinking age was raised to 21, the number of fatalities nationwide has remained fairly steady over the past 20 years.
(Scott) "It’s just kind of plateaued. We’re having 20,000, roughly, DUI fatalities every year and we kind of stay right around there. And in Vermont we’re roughly 20-30 DUI fatalities every year throughout the state."
(Keck) Many states now require some convicted drunk drivers to install ignition locks in their vehicles.
These devices force drivers to blow into a tube that measures the blood-alcohol level. If a reading is too high, the engine won’t start.
Sergeant Scott says he hopes Vermont lawmakers will enact similar legislation. But he says in the meantime, extra patrols and common sense will go a long way in keeping people safer.
(Scott) "It is frustrating – especially since before the holidays we were on track to have a record low fatalities – not just DUI but total fatalities in the state. But in the last month or so we’ve just shot up in the last couple weeks. I mean we had a seven-year-old boy who was killed out in the St. Johnsbury area. He wasn’t in a seatbelt, he wasn’t in a booster seat. Things like that – I mean that’s simple stuff. If people would just follow that – making sure that children are buckled properly – that’s the stuff that’s frustrating for us. We want people to follow some common sense strategies and when they don’t it’s upsetting."
(Keck) Police say New Year’s weekend traditionally is when people show even less common sense. So they’ll be out in force as a reminder.
For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck.