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Police Keeping an Eye Out for Impaired Drivers Over Labor Day Weekend

by on August 30, 2014 7:00 AM

For many people, Labor Day means quality time with family and friends and a well-deserved break from work.

For Ferguson Township Police Sgt. Ryan Hendrick – and other members of local law enforcement agencies – it means spending extra time and effort to help keep people safe.

Hendrick, who coordinates the Centre County Alcohol Task Force, says Labor Day weekend may not bring the same number of crashes and DUI’s to State College as seen in other parts of the state, but it still requires extra preparation.

According to a PennDOT news release, there were over 14,000 crashes from driving under the influence in 2013, with almost 200 of those taking place over the Labor Day weekend.

Hendrick says that since State College isn’t near a major interstate, this area sees a fairly small percentage of these incidents. However, the task force – which is made of representatives of law enforcement personnel from all over the county – still runs sobriety checkpoints and DUI patrols for holidays and other events like home football weekends.

“This is going to be many students’ first weekend away from their parents, and we’re trying to show them that we’re very serious about DUI’s here in State College,” Hendrick says. 

The task force ran a sobriety checkpoint on Friday night - a time that saw many traveling motorists as part of the Labor Day traffic rush. Hendrick says this checkpoint had two goals: to remove every impaired driver that came through it from the road, and to show sober drivers the consequences of driving impaired.

Nine drivers were arrested for impaired driving, and four individuals were arrested for drinking underage, according to a news release from the task force.

Throughout the weekend, Hendrick says there will also be “roving DUI patrols” across the area that will not respond to regular calls, instead focusing their attention of spotting impaired drivers.

Even if you leave the State College area, driving impaired still isn’t a good idea. Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Adam Reed says state police will also be stepping up their patrols.

“During holidays there’s certainly more traffic on the roads, and with that comes more impaired and distracted drivers,” Reed says. “During these times, we typically see an increase in DUI arrests and traffic citations issued.”

PennDOT spokesperson Ashley Schoch says the past few years have seen a small but steady decrease in alcohol-related crashes and fatalities – but crashes involving other drugs have been increasing gradually.

“We’re seeing an increase in the number of drivers impaired with narcotics,” Reed says. “Whether they’re legally prescribed, or of the illegally variety, these drugs can impair just as much as, if not more than, alcohol.”

Schoch says there are a number of ways to avoid trouble during Labor Day travels:

  • Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Assign a designated driver or use taxis or public transportation if you know you’ll be drinking
  • Take breaks on long drives if you find yourself growing drowsy.

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Michael Martin Garrett is a general assignment reporter for StateCollege.com, a graduate of Penn State and a published poet. He's also a musician who plays bass in an indie rock band.
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