Western Slope Gets New Tool in Fight Against Impaired Driving

May 26, 2011 - Traffic Safety - '100 Days of Heat' DUI Crackdown Starts Friday. Grand Junction – Law enforcement agencies in Western Colorado have a new tool to assist them in getting impaired drivers off the roadways just in time for the start of the state’s biggest DUI crackdown.

The “100 Days of Heat” DUI enforcement campaign begins Friday for Memorial Day Weekend and will continue through Labor Day.

The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office will begin using a new BAT (Breath Alcohol Testing) van within the county at sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols, special events and any other situations with a high potential for DUI arrests. The BAT van allows on-premise blood draws and breath tests as part of the DUI process, making it more efficient and faster because officers will no longer need to transport suspected drunk drivers to a police station, hospital or jail to draw blood. The BAT van also serves as highly-visible deterrent to potential drunk drivers.

The BAT van will also be available for other law enforcement agencies on the Western Slope including but not limited to: Garfield, Delta and Montrose counties. And it will be available for law enforcement agencies in Mesa County. The BAT van cost about $160,000 and was paid for with funding from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), which received the money from the National Traffic Safety Administration due to Colorado’s progress in lowering the number of alcohol-related fatalities.

"This vehicle is yet another demonstration of an efficient use of law enforcement resources to contribute to goals of safe roadways and safe communities," said Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey. “We are prepared and will be out in full force throughout the summer. Our goal is to stop impaired driving and save lives. Designate a sober driver and avoid a DUI.”

The BAT van in Mesa County is the fourth one in the state, but the first in Western Colorado.  It will join BAT vans already in operation in Denver, El Paso and Weld Counties.

According to preliminary data from CDOT, 150 people were killed in alcohol-related fatalities in the state in 2010. Over 40% (62) of those deaths occurred between Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day. During last year’s “100 Days of Heat” enforcement, more than 3,134 Colorado drivers were arrested for impaired driving.

“The consequences of drinking and driving are very serious, but become even more severe if you injure or kill someone.  DUIs and alcohol-related fatalities are totally preventable.  Make the right choice by never getting behind the wheel after drinking,” said Pamela Hutton, CDOT’s governor’s representative for highway safety.  “CDOT will continue to support statewide law enforcement agencies with state and federal grants, as well as with public education campaigns like the “Heat Is On” to help keep drunk and drugged drivers off our roadways.”

To view DUI enforcement plans for law enforcement agencies across Colorado, as well as arrest results after Memorial Day Weekend, visit www.HeatIsOnColorado.com.