Law enforcement agencies are stepping up patrols to battle drunken driving this July Fourth holiday, hoping to prevent a repeat of the death toll that came the previous two years in Arizona.
Last year, six people died in alcohol-related crashes during the holiday period statewide; in 2005, 10 people were killed, said Michael Hegarty, deputy director of the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
The East Valley DUI Task Force as well as a statewide task force will be patrolling the roadways looking for drunken drivers. Tempe police and Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies will also be on waterways making sure boaters are staying safe.
For some agencies, the heightened enforcement started last Friday night and will continue until this Saturday night.
There were 151 people arrested statewide for drunken driving between Friday and Sunday nights; 50 of those were arrested in the East Valley, where the average blood-alcohol level was 0.159, Hegarty said. Anyone with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 and above can be arrested for drunken driving.
Police want people to enjoy the holiday events, but ask that those who are drinking have a sober driver or take a taxicab home.
Tempe police are expecting 100,000 people to enjoy the celebration Wednesday at Tempe Town Lake and will have extra officers on bicycles and horseback as well as in boats and squad cars to handle the crowd, police spokesman officer Brandon Banks said. Tempe police will also have extra officers out today.
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office will be at Lake Pleasant from 2 p.m. to midnight on Tuesday with extra deputies on land and water, sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Charles Scudella said. On Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., deputies will be at the Salt River.
Chandler police are part of a statewide DUI task force that is enforcing a zero tolerance campaign from Wednesday to Saturday.