SOUTHFIELD — To make sure the Thanksgiving holiday was enjoyable and safe for locals this year, the Southfield Police Department once again cracked down on drunken drivers hitting the roads last week.
Southfield participated in the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign through the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, and police arrested seven people for drunk driving in the city Nov. 21-25: A 20-year-old man from Detroit, a 33-year-old Oak Park woman, a 34-year-old man from Southfield, a 46-year-old man from Detroit, a 49-year-old man from Detroit, a 59-year-old man from Farmington Hills and a 59-year-old man from Detroit.
Lt. Nick Loussia of the Southfield Police Department said that, in the midst of all the festivities, safety should remain a priority.
“It’s due to the number of social events people attend for the holidays,” he said about the enforcement, which had an additional two to three specially trained Southfield police officers on patrol during the five-day stretch. “During these periods of time, we want to make sure people are safe and that we remove dangerous drivers from the road.”
The campaign disperses grants through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, according to Lynn Sutfin, OHSP public information coordinator. She said nearly 100 agencies in Michigan participated this year, covering 20 counties.
“There are three time periods where they are required to conduct enforcement,” she explained about agencies who received grant monies through NHTSA. Those efforts include seat belt enforcement May 20 through June 2, drunken driving patrol July 1-7, and a combined crackdown for both seat belts and drunken driving Aug. 16 through Sept. 2.
“They also have time periods to utilize (the grant) for drunk driving, if they feel there is an issue in the area and they have personnel available. The Thanksgiving crackdown in Southfield was part of that,” she added.
Loussia said that the Thanksgiving crackdown is something the department has done for a “long time” and that seven arrests is about average each year. The officers making the arrests have been through training — the standardized field sobriety testing training offered through the Michigan State Police Department — which is covered through the grant and equips officers with specific tools to target drunken driving, he explained.
“The classes allow them to recognize signs of drunk driving and trains them on performing field sobriety tests,” Loussia said.
In Michigan, it is a crime for a motorist to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher.
For motorists who are convicted of drunken driving, consequences include up to 93 days in jail, up to a $500 fine and/or 360 hours of community service, up to 180 days on a driving suspension and six points on the driver’s license. Additionally, they will be subject to $2,000 in additional costs throughout the two years following the conviction.
Michigan also has a high-BAC law, which enhances penalties for anyone caught driving with a BAC of .17 or higher.
Loussia said that the Southfield Police Department does not release BAC levels of arrested individuals.
According to the Michigan State Police, the night before Thanksgiving is unofficially known as “the biggest bar night of the year,” and in 2011, 166 people were arrested for alcohol-related offenses between 6 p.m. Wednesday and 4 a.m. Thanksgiving morning. Of those arrests, 51 had a BAC level of .17 or higher.
Southfield was one of 36 law enforcement agencies to conduct the Nov. 21-25 crackdown in the tri-county area: 10 agencies in Oakland County, 10 in Macomb County and 16 in Wayne County.
For more information on Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, visit www.nhtsa.gov/drivesober.