Law enforcement agencies throughout the state are gearing up to saturate the streets this Labor Day weekend in an effort to reduce traffic fatalities during a holiday that is considered especially dangerous for motorists.
Louisiana is participating in a new national campaign named “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” which is designed to reduce accidents caused by impaired drivers, said Jamie Ainsworth, spokeswoman for the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission.
Authorities and highway safety officials are hoping the campaign will help continue a downward trend in the number of people killed in crashes during the Labor Day holiday.
Three people were killed in accidents during the holiday weekend in 2010 compared with 16 people in 2009, according to the Safety Commission. Five people were killed in 2008, and 26 people died in crashes in 2007, according to the Safety Commission.
“Historically, Labor Day is one of the more dangerous holidays,” Ainsworth said.
The campaign includes enforcement on roads with high visibility of patrol officers to coincide with a media campaign themed around the message, “We’ll see you before you see us,” Ainsworth said.
Along with the commercials, which started airing in mid-August, the commission awarded grants to 87 agencies in the state to cover the overtime costs of having extra officers on patrol beginning Friday, Ainsworth said.
The efforts this weekend will include saturation patrols, DWI checkpoints and six DWI mobile units stationed throughout the state, Ainsworth said.
Three of these mobile units, or blood alcohol testing buses, were awarded this summer to agencies in New Orleans, Shreveport and Jefferson Parish through grants from the Safety Commission, Ainsworth said.
The Baton Rouge Police Department was the first to receive its BAT bus more than a year ago, Ainsworth said.
Baton Rouge Police Department spokesman Sgt. Donald Stone said the BAT bus will be operating this weekend to assist with the heightened patrols aimed at impaired drivers.
The $350,000 buses reduce the time it takes to process and book a suspected impaired driver from three hours to one hour, allowing officers to get back on patrol that much quicker, Ainsworth said.
The buses contain breath-testing stations that can process up to 12 tests per hour, interior and exterior cameras, computers to look up suspects’ arrest records, facilities to collect and store blood evidence and can accommodate nine or more officers.
Ainsworth said there is not a statewide “no-refusal weekend” initiative like there was for Labor Day in 2010, but several agencies are enacting that policy in their jurisdictions.
State Police spokesman Trooper 1st Class Russell Graham said State Police in Baton Rouge won’t be operating on a no-refusal policy this weekend, but troopers will be aggressively pursuing impaired drivers.