DWI crackdown during Fourth of July holiday

The following is a news release from the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission:

Highway safety officials announced Monday that more than 87 law enforcement agencies from across Louisiana are participating in this year's Fourth of July Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest campaign designed to save lives by keeping impaired drivers off the road.

"We've seen the number of Fourth of July highway deaths drop significantly over the past few years," said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. "These declines have coincided with the stepped-up enforcement and public outreach campaigns coordinated by the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission with State Police and scores of local law enforcement agencies."

In 2007, 16 people were killed in Louisiana highway crashes over the Fourth of July holiday. That figure fell to eight in 2008, two in 2009 and two in 2010. Both of last year's Fourth of July holiday deaths involved alcohol. Besides the two deaths, 553 people were injured in 330 crashes during last year's Fourth of July holiday in Louisiana.

Nationwide, nearly half of all deadly traffic crashes over each year's Fourth of July involved some level of alcohol. Nationwide, 410 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes during the Fourth of July weekend in 2009.

As part of its Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest campaign, the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission provided grants to State Police and law local enforcement agencies to conduct hundreds of hours of overtime patrols dedicated to arresting impaired drivers during the 78-hour holiday period. Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest is a nationwide campaign funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Louisiana and national campaigns include broadcast messages warning drivers of the enforcement crackdown.

Louisiana State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said almost half of the people killed on Louisiana's highways were involved in alcohol-related crashes.

"Far too often in Louisiana, holiday celebrations are marred by personal tragedies due to crashes involving impaired driving," said Edmonson. "Along with local law enforcement agencies from across Louisiana, State Police troopers will be visible throughout the Fourth of July holiday with proactive patrols and an aggressive public awareness campaign. Our hope is that the public makes responsible decisions and has an enjoyable and safe Independence Day celebration."

Driving while intoxicated is a serious offense in Louisiana, with a first-offense arrest costing as much as $1,000 in fines, plus court costs and even jail time. An adult driver can be arrested in Louisiana if his or her blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 or higher. The limit for drivers under 21 is 0.02 BAC.