Police unveil crackdown on drunken driving and seat belts

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published August 26, 2014

ROSEVILLE — Law enforcement statewide is cracking down on drunken driving and those driving without seat belts through Labor Day, and both Roseville and Eastpointe’s police departments have signed on to the initiative.

Melody Kindraka, representative of Michigan’s Office of Highway Safety Planning, said they were taking a different approach this year by “advertising” spoof drinks from a fake brewing company in bars and restaurants, such as “Phone a Friend Porter” and “Designated Driver Dark.”

“These products are not real, and they may be fictitious, but the message is serious,” Kindraka said. “If you plan on getting behind the wheel drunk, extra officers will be on hand.”

She said an extra 150 police departments had pledged to participate in the state’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign. Eastpointe has signed on to perform extra patrols for impaired driving citywide after 11 p.m., while Roseville is focused on the Gratiot and Groesbeck corridors. Both cities also are putting out extra patrols for seat belt enforcement in varying parts of the city through Labor Day.

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said impaired driving was one of the most common causes of injury in the U.S., and it is an activity that “puts everyone at risk.”

He said that deputies and police officers trained as seat belt spotters are going to be watching for drivers without them, with officers farther down the road ready to pull them over.

“I don’t have a problem with people going out and having a good time, but they have got to make sure they make a good decision,” Wickersham said. “Our primary goal is to save lives and prevent injury. Our officers are dedicated to making sure everyone has a safe trip.”

According to statistics from the Office of Highway Safety Planning, Michigan’s seat belt usage was 93 percent in 2013, down from a high of 97.9 percent in 2009. Male pickup truck occupants have the lowest rate of seat belt usage, according to the statistics.

Wickersham said the legal implications of drunken driving if caught include six points on a license, a fine up to $500, a license suspension up to 180 days, community service and additional fines for a high blood alcohol level.

During last year’s enforcement period of Aug. 16-Sept. 2, 267 drunken drivers were arrested and 4,119 seat belt citations were issued, according to the state’s statistics. Additionally, during the Labor Day holiday, 10 people were killed in traffic crashes, three of which were alcohol related.