With Labor Day weekend fast approaching, law enforcement is focused on keeping our roads and highways safe from intoxicated drivers whose numbers seem to proliferate during the various three-day holiday weekends throughout the year. Hundreds of thousands of Californians travel the highways to take advantage of the long weekend, and for many, partying is no small part of the plans. The Labor Day weekend is also at the tail end of the warm season, so our lakes will be busy with people taking advantage of one last boating session before the weather becomes cold again for the next seven months or so. Whether peoples' trips are on solid ground or they involve water, alcohol and other intoxicants will, once again, bring to an end the lives of many. And if people are not outright killed by incidents featuring intoxicated motorists or boat operators, there will be plenty who are severely injured or crippled for life. There is plenty of justification to once again remind people to be careful when their three-day weekend involves any kind of intoxicants.
The Labor Day DUI statistics speak for themselves. Last year, the CHP alone arrested 1,300 DUI motorists. Local law enforcement agencies accounted for making thousands of additional DUI arrests during the period. If you consider that arrests generally represent just the "tip of the iceberg," then we have to acknowledge as being true that during the evening hours one in 12 motorists is intoxicated to some extent. After 11 p.m. in areas where there are bars and other places where on-site alcohol consumption is taking place, the figure can be as high as one in four motorists who are driving while intoxicated.
Needless to say, on any given Friday or Saturday night -- and three-day weekends in particular -- are dangerous times for sober motorists who face a daunting threat from the high number of intoxicated drivers plying the roadways. Many motorists know about this problem and choose to not to travel during the peak intoxication periods, or they simply just don't travel at all because they perceive the risk to be too great to subject themselves and their families to.
The state and local communities recognize the importance of reducing the numbers of intoxicated motorists on our roads and highways. Accordingly, there is almost continuous public education taking place along with frequent DUI enforcement periods that are funded by state and federal grants. Education is helpful, but most law enforcement agencies place heavy emphasis on strict enforcement.
The point of this column is to raise awareness in anticipation of this upcoming Labor Day weekend. People planning to consume alcohol or any other intoxicants should make an unwavering commitment, now, no matter what amount they consume, that they will abstain from operating any motor vehicle or boat. The idea is that once consumption commences one's judgment as to their ability to safely operate any vehicle or boat is impaired. Arrangements should be made to assign a "designated driver" for the vehicle (or boat) who can be counted on to remain 100 percent sober at all times. If necessary, use public transportation or a taxi - any arrangement other than having an intoxicated person behind the wheel is preferred to the awful outcomes that are so common with DUI crashes. And one last point: be sure to report DUI drivers!