HOUGHTON - The state of Michigan is launching a new initiative aimed at cracking down on drunk driving.
Starting today and continuing through Sept. 3, there will be increased drunk driving patrols in more than 160 local law enforcement agencies in 26 counties.
The Michigan State Police Calumet Post will have a safety belt zone starting today at noon at the intersection of M-26 and Green Acres Road; more will follow Tuesday on M-26 in South Range and Aug. 27 on U.S. 41 in Chassell. They will also have increased drunk driving patrols starting at 9 p.m. Aug. 24 in Houghton County because of the return of college students, followed by similar patrols on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 and a night patrol on Sept. 2. The Houghton Police Department will have city-wide drunk driving enforcement starting at 9 p.m. Aug. 25 and Sept. 1 and have safety belt zones throughout the city starting at noon Thursday.
Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette
Lynn Sutfin, spokesperson for the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, speaks about a new statewide anti-drunk driving initiative during a press conference at the Houghton City Center Thursday.
"Arresting drunk drivers is our last resort," said Lt. Mike Loyd of the Calumet Post. "We encourage everyone to be responsible, make plans for a sober driver, or call a cab. We also hope that friends will step in if necessary."
Every officer in the patrols has had special field sobriety training, said Houghton Police Lt. Nick Roberts. Almost 37,000 people were arrested for drunk driving in Michigan last year.
"So despite what this group may think, officers can and do definitely arrest drunk drivers on a regular basis," he said. "And for the next few weeks, there will be more officers on the road to watch for, stop and arrest drunk drivers."
For a full list of planned enforcement times, dates and locations, go to michigan.gov/ohsp.
The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning used focus groups to determine why men drive drunk despite disincentives such as jail time and license sanctions. Last year, men accounted for more than 80 percent of drunk driving arrests, and more than 40 percent were between 21 and 34 years old.
Many drivers felt they were more focused drivers when drunk, or had special strategies for evading police. Those responses and others were included in a new ad campaign launched by the OHSP. The ad can be viewed at youtube.com/ohsp.
"Hearing these statements when you're stone-cold sober hopefully puts this in a different light for you," said OHSP spokesperson Lynn Sutfin.