Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the U.S. to honor the memory of Americans who died serving the country in its armed forces, according to the Veteran’s Administration’s Office of Public Affairs. The unofficial start of summer is observed on the last Monday of May.
Sadly, Memorial Day weekend is also known as a time of fatal traffic accidents. Police throughout the country, including in Colorado, are beefing up enforcement this Memorial Day weekend to prevent drunk and impaired driving, which cause many deaths. There were 67 traffic deaths in Colorado between 2007 and 2015, reports the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Darrell Lingk, director of CDOT’s Office of Transportation Safety, said:
Of those 67 fatalities, an alarming 41 (61 percent) were alcohol related. The need for The Heat Is On enforcement periods is clearly evident, particularly over Memorial Day weekend.
Dozens of Agencies Taking Part
During The Heat Is On DUI enforcement period, law enforcement patrols will be intensified from today [Friday] through Tuesday, May 31. Throughout Colorado, 78 law enforcement agencies will participate.
Alicia Stice wrote for The Coloradoan, in North Colorado, that the Windsor, Fort Collins, and Larimer Sheriff’s Offices all will be participating in the long weekend enforcement period. Because extra officers are the key to The Heat Is On, an extra Fort Collins police officer will be working the two weekend nights in Fort Collins, and the Colorado State Patrol that covers the city will be increased from Friday through Tuesday. Extra deputies from the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office will also be patrolling from Friday through Monday. And the Windsor Police is assigning extra staff from Monday through Friday as well.
Busy and Dangerous
As Brad Tuttle writes for Money magazine, Memorial Day weekend has become one of the busiest and most dangerous holidays. He notes that AAA predicts that 38 million Americans will travel this weekend, a huge 700,000 increase over last year, and in fact, the largest number of travelers on Memorial Day weekend in 11 years.
Although many people begin their trips on Friday, it seems that many more leave for their vacations on the Thursday before Memorial Day. On that Thursday the average road trip takes 50% to 100% more time than a day with no traffic, according to a study in the Washington, D.C. area by transportation planner Ben Hampton, writes Megan Cloherty for WTOP.
This holiday could be the deadliest Memorial Day Weekend since 2009, when 462 Americans lost their lives in motor vehicle accidents, writes The National Safety Council (NSC). U.S. traffic deaths in general rose from 2014 to 2015 by 8% — the largest increase in 50 years. There were more than 9,570 traffic deaths in 2014 between May 24 and August 31.
Col. Scott Hernandez, chief of the Colorado State Patrol, said:
Law enforcement understands that people will be out having fun during the holiday weekend, but there will be zero tolerance for impaired drivers. We encourage drivers to consider the consequences of a DUI and the danger they present to themselves and others on the road.