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St. Patrick’s Day Enforcement Snags 396 Impaired Drivers

March 24, 2016 - Traffic Safety - CDOT Educates Irish Snug Patrons with Breathalyzer Tests

STATEWIDE — St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday to celebrate Irish heritage, wear green clothing and for many, a customary time to enjoy an alcoholic beverage. From March 11 through March 18, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), Colorado State Patrol (CSP) and local law enforcement agencies combined efforts to arrest 396 impaired drivers for the annual St. Patrick’s Day The Heat Is On enforcement. The 396 arrests were a decrease from last year when 505 drivers were arrested.

“For some, alcohol consumption is a St. Patrick’s Day tradition, but unfortunately   many drivers risked their safety – and the safety of others - and got behind the wheel while impaired during the holiday week,” said Darrell Lingk, Director of the CDOT’s Office of Transportation Safety. “We hope finding a safe and sober ride home becomes a standing tradition in the future for these drivers.”

A total of 79 agencies participated in the increased DUI patrols, with the Aurora Police Department (46 arrests), Denver Police Department (44 arrests) and Colorado Springs Police Department (32 arrest) recording the highest arrest totals. The Colorado State Patrol made 27 arrests.  

In addition to the enforcement, CDOT interacted with bar patrons at the Irish Snug in Denver and used smartphone breathalyzers to test the blood-alcohol content (BAC) of drinkers. Testers compared drinkers’ BACs to the legal limit of .05 (DWAI) and .08 (DUI) percent, and reminded them to use alternate transportation such as taxis and ride-hailing services. 100 Irish Snug attendees were tested by CDOT representatives, with an average BAC level of .066.. From the 100 people sampled, the highest recorded BAC was .165; the lowest was .038.

“Many drivers are unaware that they can still be arrested on suspicion of DUI with a BAC level below the .08 limit,” said Col. Scott Hernandez, Chief of the Colorado State Patrol. “If a driver shows signs of impairment and fails a roadside sobriety test, we proceed with the arrest."

CDOT also recruited four volunteers to partake in a drinking experiment that proved that varying levels of alcohol impairment can occur across different people, even when consuming the same amount. Volunteers each consumed four of the same alcoholic beverages in the span of two hours and, between each drink, their BAC was calculated using a breathalyzer. After only two drinks, three of the four participants were above the BAC legal limit to receive a DWAI (.05), with both female participants over the DUI limit (.08). The final BAC results varied (.143,.141,.113, .059), effectively demonstrating how gender, food intake and body mass all affect BAC levels.

The Heat Is On campaign will return from April 9 through May 15 for Spring Events enforcement. The Spring Events patrols arrested 1,870 impaired drivers in 2015.

The CDOT Highway Safety Office provides funding to Colorado law enforcement for impaired driving enforcement, education and awareness campaigns. The Heat Is On campaign runs throughout the year with 12 specific high visibility impaired driving enforcement periods centered on national holidays and large public events. Enforcement periods can include sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols and additional law enforcement on duty dedicated to impaired driving enforcement. More details about the campaign, including impaired driving enforcement plans, arrest totals and safety tips can be found at HeatIsOnColorado.com.

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