Thanksgiving weekend, complete with Black Friday shopping sprees and family gatherings, is like a pregame for the holidays to come.
For law enforcement agencies however, it often signals the start of enhanced anti-drunk driving enforcement campaigns meant to keep festive boozing in check.
To curb the issue locally, law enforcement agencies have taken a number of different approaches this year - from a glitzy ad campaign complete with a public awareness cop car to the more standard approach of increased police patrols in bar districts.
The Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) unveiled a new tool in their drunk driving awareness campaign this year - a half taxi-cab and half police cruiser that probes observers to ask which type of car they would rather ride home in at the end of the night.
“This newest, innovative and commissioned vehicle will be a poignant reminder this holiday season that, as every drunk driving incident is 100-percent preventable, people have a choice in how they’re transported at the end of an evening,” said Arlington County Police Chief M. Douglas Scott in a statement.
The operable Ford Crown Victoria, which sports the look of Arlington County police cruiser in front and a yellow and black taxi motif in back, is meant to raise awareness about the region-wide free cab rides that WRAP offers over the holidays.
The SoberRide program will offer free cab rides home between Dec. 14 and Jan. 1 this year as a way to help prevent drunk people from getting behind the wheel.
At least one fatal crash involving a drunk driver was reported in the Washington metropolitan region this holiday season. A 25-year-old man was killed Thanksgiving night in Manassas when the truck his friend was driving crossed into a ditch and rolled over, Prince William County police said.
Officials said the driver, 23-year-old Jeffrey Scott Davis, of Fairfax, was charged with driving under the influence. Roland Donald Reynolds, of Manassas, was not wearing his seat belt and was ejected from the Chevy S-10 when it crashed. He died at a hospital.
Police spokesman Officer Jonathan L. Perok said the department would not release information about Mr. Davis‘ blood alcohol levels at the time of the crash.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the number of people killed nationally in drunk driving crashes over the Thanksgiving holiday spiked by 30 percent in 2010 compared to the rest of the year. In 2010, the last year that data was available, 174 people were killed nation-wide in drunk driving crashes between the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the weekend after the holiday, according to MADD. Another 96 people were killed in the days surrounding Christmas and 143 people died in the days surrounding New Year's Eve.
As part of another local drunk driving crackdown, Prince George’s County police made several arrests as officers stepped up enforcement efforts this holiday weekend.
Targeting Route 1 in College Park - an area close to the University of Maryland campus and home to numerous bars - county police made 65 traffic stops on Thanksgiving Eve. Of those traffic stops, police arrested seven people for driving under the influence, said spokesman Officer Edward Martin.
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Andrea Noble is a crime and public safety reporter for The Washington Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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