Halloween costumes will do little to hide drunk drivers from law enforcement this weekend.
From Friday through next Thursday, police will work overtime and look specifically for impaired drivers. The peak hours for arrests due to driving under the influence (DUI) are midnight until 3 a.m. Saturday and Sunday morning are especially high risk after bars close.
The overtime campaign, dubbed “The Heat Is On” or “Click It Or Ticket,” is enforced at various times during the year, particularly around holidays.
Click It Or Ticket has been in effect for 12 years in Colorado’s 11 most populated counties. The campaign was introduced as a way to reduce the number of teen fatalities on the road. Because failing to wear a seat belt is a secondary violation, police may pull the driver over for a different reason and add the missing seat belt to the list of violations.
Gilbert Mares, a trooper with the Colorado State Patrol, said the rumor that more cops patrol the streets near the end of the month is a mere myth. Contrary to popular belief, no policeman must issue a minimum number of tickets. Therefore, the “ticket quota” concept is nonexistent.
The State Patrol looks for a number of signs that a driver may be drunk. He or she may be driving far under or over the speed limit or ignoring stop signs and stoplights.
Weaving between lanes is also a giveaway.
“They cannot effectively operate the vehicle in their lane,” Mares said.
Following too close and swerving are more clues that reveal intoxication on the road.
There were only nine DUI arrests last Halloween weekend, as reported by the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office. Still, misconceptions about drunk drivers are often exaggerated in the media, Mares said.
“We do see a lot of cooperation with the overall majority of intoxicated drivers,” Mares said.
The federal government pays for the increased patrolling.
“There’s federal funding that helps The Heat,” said Stacy Stegman, a Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) spokeswoman. “The officers are paid through The Law Enforcement Assistant Fund (LEAF).”
This year, LEAF provided the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office with over $22,000 to compensate policemen working overtime.
Throughout the week, Click It Or Ticket will instate special checkpoints, or saturation patrols, to watch for intoxication. Saturation patrols, in Mares said, means “having a heightened presence on targeted roads or roads with higher volumes of drivers.”
However, the number of patrols varies per county, with more checkpoints in more populated areas.
“It’s not like they [policemen] are going to be waiting for you,” Mares said. “Our goal is to reduce the number of fatal crashes.”
Staff writer Elizabeth Fritzler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.