As the Labor Day weekend approaches, law enforcement personnel from the Reno and Sparks police departments, Washoe County Sheriff’s Office and the Nevada Highway Patrol (NHP) are cracking down on intoxicated drivers.
The “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign begins today and runs through Sept. 5 and officers will be out in force looking for any drivers exhibiting signs of impairment.
“Driving under the influence of alcohol is a preventable crime,” a press release states. “Yet every day at least one motorist in Washoe County is placed under arrest for this offense and taken to jail.”
According to Chuck Allen, spokesman for the NHP, 3,792 motorists were arrested for intoxicated driving in 2010 and there were 89 fatalities involving drunk drivers in Nevada.
“That’s far too many deaths,” Allen said Thursday morning during a press conference held to kick off the “drive sober” campaign.
The Regional Transportation Commission, Bell Limousine, Airport Mini Bus and Whittlesea Checker Taxi were invited to the kick-off event to illustrate the various types of public transportation available as alternatives to driving drunk.
“If you are going to consume alcohol, think about alternative methods to getting home safely,” Allen said, pointing out that getting just one DUI will result in possibly having to use public transportation to get around. “On your first DUI, you are looking at a 90-day license suspension and you’ll be finding alternative modes of transportation anyway.”
A first-time DUI offense can cost the motorist up to $10,000, Allen said. Penalties consist of a $750 fine, two days in jail, vehicle impound fees, legal fees, required attendance at a victim impact panel and the loss of driving privileges for 90 days. If convicted of a DUI, the driver must file a SR-22 with the Department of Motor Vehicles for three years, which results in insurance increases.
In Nevada, drivers under the influence of drugs besides alcohol can be cited for impaired driving.
“Impairment doesn’t begin and end with alcohol,” Allen said, adding that prescription and illegal drugs also cause impaired driving. “Where drugs are suspected, we do have a drug (testing) machine, the Dräger 5000.”
The Dräger DrugTest 5000 system is used statewide to test in the field for drugs that fall into six major categories, Ron Larson of the NHP said.
According to www.draeger.com, substances such as opiates, cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines, designer drugs and tranquilizers based on benzodiazepines can be detected in saliva or samples from surfaces.
“It’s a great tool in the field because we can use it at roadside,” Larson said.
Driving under the influence of a controlled substance is a felony offense, he added.
Law enforcement agencies taking part in “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” which is funded by a grant from the Nevada Office of Traffic Safety, urge drivers to plan ahead to keep everyone on the roadways safe.
“We want every motorist who intends to consume alcohol to plan their activity safely and responsibly,” a press release states. “Staying home or at a hotel or resort, designating a safe and sober driver or utilizing public transportation are a few examples to follow in avoiding an arrest.”