Dover – As thousands take to the roads for the 4th of July holiday weekend remember these names: Charlotte Vollendorf, Daniel Watson, George Grissom, Michael Banks, Chris Shea, Lisa Pink, Keith Rogers, Jasmine Sample, Shaun Loomis, and Ashley Kauffman. These are only a fraction of Delawareans who never made it home because they were killed in a crash involving an impaired driver.
This weekend, the Delaware Office of Highway Safety hopes to prevent other families from having to receive that gut wrenching late night knock at the door by launching its 8th annual Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign.
Checkpoint Strikeforce is a regional sobriety checkpoint campaign aimed at arresting DUI offenders, and using high visibility enforcement to deter those who would otherwise choose to drink and drive. The campaign, a six month long effort running through New Year’s Eve, involves setting up weekly DUI checkpoints statewide. Officers participating in the 2008 campaign made 559 DUI arrests.
Ninety-eight sobriety checkpoints are scheduled to take place over the next six months, with six of them set to occur this weekend. During peak holiday times including Labor Day, Halloween, and the month of December, OHS will increase the number of checkpoints and add roving DUI patrols to the plan.
Currently, alcohol-related fatalities are down significantly in Delaware. Nine of this year’s 51 traffic deaths (17%) have been alcohol-related. At this time last year, 29 of the state’s 59 fatalities (49%) involved alcohol. Alcohol involvement is also suspected to have been a factor in two of last weekend’s four fatal crashes.
“While the reduction in alcohol-related traffic deaths is encouraging, it does not mean that we should in any way cut back on our enforcement or awareness efforts,” said Tricia Roberts, Director of the Office of Highway Safety. “Too many people still fail to understand that alcohol and driving don’t mix. Impaired driving is no accident—nor is it a victimless crime. We will continue our work to bring it to an end.”
Twenty-two police agencies are participating in this year’s Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign. They include: Clayton Police, Delaware State Police, Dover Police, Georgetown Police, Harrington Police, Laurel Police, Milford Police, Millsboro Police, Rehoboth Beach Police, Seaford Police, Smyrna Police and the New Castle County DUI Task Force which is comprised of officers from the Delaware City Police, Division of Alcohol Tobacco Enforcement (DATE), Division of Capitol Police, DNREC State Park Police, Elsmere Police, Middletown Police, New Castle City Police, New Castle County Police, Newark Police, Newport Police, and Wilmington Police.
The campaign’s enforcement activities will be supplemented by intense public awareness in the form of new T.V. and radio spots, billboards, print, and internet ads. Bars, restaurants and OHS’s corporate partners will receive fliers, posters, and table tents to display and help spread the message. The campaign’s Spanish materials are being revised to make comprehension among the non or limited English speaking Latino community easier.
As part of the Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign, OHS has formed a new partnership with the Delaware Sports League to promote the HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers. Efforts include ad placement on the DSL website and email blasts, sponsorship of a HERO shuttle bus, and providing bottled water with a HERO message for DSL events after games. The HERO Campaign was founded by the family of the late Ensign John Elliott, who was killed in a tragic crash involving an impaired driver in 2000.
Those convicted of a first time DUI offense in Delaware can expect to lose their driver’s license for up to three months, attend an 8-week DUI treatment class and pay nearly 4-thousand dollars in court, treatment, DMV, and lawyer’s fees.
Checkpoint Strikeforce is the 2nd initiative under OHS’s 120 Days of Summer HEAT campaign, a summertime crackdown on traffic violators which began with Click It or Ticket, and will be followed next week by the Stop Aggressive Driving campaign.