Local authorities and the Montgomery County Health Department joined forces Friday morning outside of a , in order to raise awareness of upcoming DUI enforcement over the Labor Day weekend.
Members of the Pennsylvania State Police, , and the Valley Forge DUI Enforcement Team gathered outside of the store's pharmacy, chosen because of the initiative's emphasis on driving under the influence of prescription drug use.
"We're out here trying to remind people that DUI is not only driving under the influence of alcohol, but can also be under the influence of any type of drug," said Danea Durham, Community Service Officer for the PSP's Troop K in Philadelphia. "If you're taking prescription drugs, it can inhibit your driving just as much if not more than alcohol can."
Durham says that state police will be conducting roving and stationary patrols throughout Montgomery County, both on highways and major municipal thoroughfares. PennDOT statistics show that 133 drug or alcohol related crashes occurred over Labor Day weekend statewide last year, including three fatalities.
Montgomery County authorities are stepping up their enforcement as well. John Coogan, Corporal in the West Norriton Police Department, is the coordinator for the Valley Forge DUI Enforcement Team and organizes members from ten police departments in central Montgomery County.
"My job is to coordinate with all the departments to have officers come help at checkpoints," Coogan said. "We run checkpoints and roving patrols that look for drivers that are driving erratically or impaired."
Coogan says the enforcement team is paid for by an annual grant from PennDOT, which picks up the tab for overtime pay, along with maintenance of the team's trailer and checkpoint supplies. It's one of five such teams that canvas Montgomery County, and Coogan says that all will likely be running roving patrols through the holiday.
Local police departments will be adding their assistance as well. Plymouth Police Sergeant John Jackson says it's almost guaranteed that his department catches at least one DUI driver each Labor Day using nighttime roving patrols.
"Statistically there is a very high incident rate for DUI accidents, and most DUI accidents result in injury or death," Jackson said. "Through awareness we're trying to make a dent in the number of people having a second thought before they get behind the wheel."
DUI by the Numbers
(Provided by PennDOT)
PennDOT statistics for 2011 show there were 3,073 drug-related crashes statewide, with 116 fatalities in those crashes. That marks an increase from 2005, when there were 2,073 drug-related crashes and 89 fatalities in those crashes statewide.
In comparison, the same data shows that alcohol-related crashes decreased from 13,350 in 2005 to 11,778 in 2011. Fatalities in those crashes decreased from 582 in 2005 to 425 in 2011.
During last year’s Labor Day weekend, there were 111 alcohol-related crashes and three fatalities as well as 22 drug-related crashes.
Statewide police statistics show that there were 50,413 driving under the influence (DUI) arrests in 2011, a decrease from 52,126 in 2010. Driving under the influence of drug arrests continue to account for a larger percentage of these arrests, with 13,907 such arrests in 2011, an increase from 11,808 in 2010.
The legal blood-alcohol content in Pennsylvania is 0.08 for motorists over the age of 21. For underage drivers, the blood-alcohol limit is 0.02 percent. Driving under the influence penalties can include jail time, license suspension and fines of between $500 and $5,000.