With Labor Day less than two week ago, authorities are cracking down on impaired drivers with the national campaign Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.
The campaign - a deterrence program with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - focuses on combining high visibility enforcement and heightened public awareness, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
"Impaired driving is one of America's most often committed and deadliest crime," FHP Director Col. David Brierton reported in a prepared statement.
"In an effort to get drunk and drugged drivers off the roads, FHP troopers will aggressively look for impaired drivers during the crackdown," he said.
The campaign began Friday and will run through Sept. 3, Labor Day.
The Cape Coral Police Department, along with other local law enforcement agencies, have announced their participation in the national crackdown.
Holiday safety tips
- Plan ahead. Always designate a non-drinking driver before any holiday party or celebration begins.
- Take the keys. Do not let a friend drive if they are impaired.
- Be a helpful host. If you are hosting a party, remind your guests to plan ahead and designate a sober driver. Always offer alcohol-free beverages and make sure all of your guests leave with a sober driver.
- Call police if you see an impaired driver on the road.
Source: Fort Myers Police Department
"The whole goal is to get as many impaired drivers off the road as possible," Sgt. Patrick O'Grady of the Cape department's traffic unit said Tuesday.
He explained that authorities tend to see more impaired drivers during the three-day holiday weekends as more people enjoy the extra day off.
"They do it (the campaign) during holiday times when people are more likely to drink," O'Grady said.
"We know it's a worthwhile campaign," he added.
Leading up to Labor Day, Cape officers will be more diligent of impaired drivers on the city's roads. There is also a saturation patrol planned, which will include the CCPD motorcycle unit, DUI unit and traffic homicide unit.
The patrol will likely take place on a Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.
"They'll be enforcing traffic infractions throughout the city and, hopefully, taking out some impaired drivers at the same time," O'Grady said.
No other specialized enforcements, like DUI checkpoints, are scheduled.
"Due to budgetary constraints," he said of why. "DUI checkpoints are expensive and require a lot of manpower."
For those who plan to drink alcohol, O'Grady offered a few tips.
"Think before you drive," he said. "It is one of the decisions that will last a lifetime and cost you a lot."
Have a designated driver before the celebrating begins, or call a taxi.
"That's a big one," O'Grady said. "It'll save you in the long run."
He also suggested visiting a venue that is within walking distance of your home, or contacting a sober friend to pick you up so you do not drive.
For those hosting a party, name someone the designated driver.
"Again, you can always call a taxi," O'Grady said. "It may be inconvenient, but it may save their life or someone else's."
Letting impaired guests spend the night is another option.
"Have them sleep it off," he said.
Motorists who see an impaired driver on the road are urged to contact the Cape Coral Police Department at the non-emergency line at 574-3223.
They should provide as much information as possible, including a description of the vehicle and tag, what they saw and the vehicle's direction of travel.
The Lee County Sheriff's Office and the Fort Myers Police Department are also participating in the campaign. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 11,000 people die annually because of drunk driving.
"FMPD is reminding everyone that buzzed driving is drunk driving, and planning ahead could prevent you from becoming a statistic," FMPD officials reported in a prepared statement.
Officials at the LCSO reported that their emphasis will be on education, awareness and enforcement, with deputies committed to removing impaired drivers with the goal of reducing traffic crashes, injuries and fatalities.
From Aug. 31 to Sept. 3, AAA is offering its Tow to Go program to the public. The service provides a confidential ride and tow home from any bar or restaurant - free of charge - by calling (855) 2-TOW2GO (286-9246).
The Tow to Go program is open to AAA members and non-members.