Nearly 3,000 cited since the fall in a statewide campaign
By December 16, 2016, more than 180 people had died throughout the year in Colorado auto accidents connected to drugs or alcohol. State transportation officials expected that by the end of the year, the number would exceed 2015’s total of 182.
Extra Enforcement During the Holidays
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), the Colorado State Patrol, and 195 other law enforcement agencies around the state have been hoping that another statistic will increase much faster: the number of impaired drivers they remove from state roads. In 2016, the agencies’ collaboration in an annual program called The Heat Is On resulted in the arrests of 2,897 drivers suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol during four holiday-related enforcement periods.
Police arrested or cited 325 drivers during a Halloween campaign, 522 drivers during a 10-day Thanksgiving campaign, 1,498 drivers in four weeks coinciding with the fall festival season, and another 552 drivers during an early December campaign. The last effort, a 10-day crackdown that began on December 2, led to 74 fewer arrests than the same operation had a year earlier.
According to Dallas based attorney Amy Witherite, enforcement periods can include sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols, and an increased number of officers on the street scouting for impaired drivers.
The Crackdown Continues
From December 30 through January 3 as well, the agencies targeted New Year’s celebrants who overindulged and got behind the wheel. The results have not yet been reported.
“Winter driving can be dangerous in itself—adding alcohol to the equation significantly increases the chances of being involved in a crash,” said Colonel Scott Hernandez, Colorado State Patrol chief. “Impaired driving is never a good idea, especially with snow and ice on the roadways.”
CDOT officials are reminding the public that the cost of driving while impaired goes beyond the risk to safety. There are also legal and financial consequences. Those convicted of a first-time DUI offense can face jail time, large fines, and have their license suspended. Plus additional hits to the wallet such as attorney fees and increased insurance premiums. It gets much more expensive in terms of liberty and money for repeated offenders.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimated that of Colorado’s 546 traffic fatalities in 2015, 151 cases involved drivers impaired by alcohol. Nationwide, 10,265 of 35,092 traffic fatalities in 2015—29 percent—involved an impaired driver.
Help in English and Spanish
The CDOT has been promoting an app to help drivers know when to stop drinking, and it is now available in Spanish. The agency recently released a Spanish version for the Android platform of its R-U-Buzzed smartphone app called ¿Estás Tomado? (The English-language app, R‑U-Buzzed, is available for both iOS and Android.)
R-U-Buzzed and ¿Estás Tomado? calculate blood-alcohol content. The mobile app lets users estimate their BAC based on the information they enter about their height, weight, gender, and number of drinks they have consumed in a given time. The app compares that estimate with Colorado’s thresholds for Driving Under the Influence (.08 percent) and Driving While Ability Impaired (.05 percent), and suggests whether it is okay to get behind the wheel.