Law enforcement agencies join forces in DUI crackdown over Labor Day weekend

ST. GEORGE — Law enforcement agencies across the state will be working extra shifts during the “Know Your Limits” DUI crackdown through Labor Day weekend to keep the roads safe but also to educate the public on the No. 1 cause of driving impaired: overconfidence.

2018 Fatality rates for holiday weekends in Utah | Image courtesy of Zero Fatalities Utah, St. George News

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, on average, a person is injured in an alcohol-related crash every 90 seconds nationwide, and one is killed every 51 minutes. Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that most drivers have driven drunk at least 80 times before their first DUI arrest.

To increase traffic safety, law enforcement agencies throughout Utah launched the “Know Your Limits” campaign, part of the national “Drive Sober or get Pulled Over” DUI crackdown on impaired drivers.

According to a statement released by the Utah Department of Public Safety, 26 different law enforcement agencies will be working more than 200 extra DUI shifts during the crackdown on Labor Day weekend, and motorists can expect to see more officers and troopers on the state’s roadways.

“The whole purpose behind the campaign is to increase driver safety,” Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Colton Freckleton told St. George News, “even if that means getting an impaired driver off the road to reduce the potential for a crash.”

The FBI estimates nearly 1.2 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics in 2016 – one arrest for every 215 drivers licensed in the United States.

And while Utah may have had the lowest percentage of alcohol-impaired fatalities in the country in 2017, the CDC reports a total of nearly 470 people killed in crashes in the state involving a drunk driver between 2003 and 2012.

Map showing the percentage of alcohol-related fatalities by state in 2017 | Image courtesy of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, St. George News

More than 30 percent of all motorists will be involved in an alcohol-related collision in their lifetime. Drivers with a high blood alcohol content are 385 times more likely to be involved in a single-vehicle crash.

The financial impact from alcohol-related crashes is staggering. In 2017 those costs were estimated to be more than $5o billion – or roughly $155 for every man, woman and child living in the United States.

Freckleton said that even if one crash is prevented by the DUI enforcement crackdown, “then it’s worth it.”

‘I’m fine’ – the leading cause of impaired driving

In the statement from the Department of Public Safety, UHP Lt. Colonel Mark Zesiger said that even though most people never go expecting to drive home drunk, they are driving impaired nonetheless. The question is why.

This July 2019 file photo shows a Chevrolet Trax that caught fire after crashing into a semi on southbound Interstate 15 near mile marker 9 in Mohave County, Ariz., as the result of a DUI, July 12, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Beaver Dam/Littlefield Fire and Rescue, St. George News

A recent study conducted by the department may hold the answer.

The study showed that the No. 1 reason drivers risk driving impaired is due to overconfidence, the mistaken belief that they are sober enough to drive, when in fact they are not.

“Too many people think ‘I’m fine’ when they really aren’t. Too many crashes happen because someone thought ‘I’m good’ but they weren’t,” Zeisiger said.

Freckleton told St. George News that overconfidence related to drinking is not the result of a conscientious thought or a decision. Instead, he said the study showed it is a byproduct of consuming alcohol.

In fact, the more alcohol a person consumes, the more confidence they feel, particularly when it comes to operating a car, Freckleton said.

“A person who has had two drinks may not feel very confident about driving home, but by four or five drinks they believe they can operate a vehicle as well as when they are sober,” he said.

It is that sense of overconfidence that can lead to tragedy if they get behind wheel, he added.

To help correct this misconception, the “Know Your Limits” campaign reminds drivers to avoid the risk of intoxicated overconfidence by planning a safe and sober ride – because even one drink can be too many.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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