Labor Day is one of those holidays when local police departments go all-out to identify and stop inebriated and impaired drivers. With all the publicity, you'd think people would get the message about driving drunk.
Turns out, some have, at least when it comes to alcohol. Lisette Martinez of 12 News reported last night that Mesa police actually had more citations for impaired drivers affected by drug use than by alcohol, including at least one cited for marijuana use who held a state-issued medical marijuana card. As of last night, 21 of 32 DUI arrests in Mesa were found to be marijuana-related.
Last year, 12% of all DUI arrests in Mesa were determined to be drug-related. About six percent of Mesa police have received specific training to spot prescription drug impairment. Nationally, just one percent of police have had this training, according to Martinez's report, which you can view at the 12 News website
Police training to spot drug use includes looking for tremors in the face and hands, and noting abnormal pupil size. Anyone arrested for DUI in the state is required to submit blood and urine samples; those who refuse will be jailed for longer than the eight-hour minimum "day."
Fox 10 News reports 370 DUI arrests throughout the state over the weekend, slightly lower than the 400 arrested last year. Almost one-third of this year's arrests were for extreme DUI, which means the drivers' blood alcohol limits were more than twice the legal limit.
In Scottsdale, 20 people were arrested for DUI.
Here's how this weekend's statewide Labor Day arrests stack up to other recent major holidays:
- 435 during the two-day Fourth of July sweep, up from 350 in 2012
- 560 during the three-day Memorial Day holiday, up from 547 in 2012
- 4,371 during the New Year holiday, up form 4,058 in 2012
Why are so many people taking the risk to drive impaired when there are even free cab rides available and, according to police, more designated drivers? It's because people don't have to be legally drunk to be cited.
The Breathalyzer tests administered onsite at the traffic stops only determine if a driver is actually impaired, even to the slightest degree. A driver can be arrested if an officer determines he or she is not capable of driving safely. It's only if the blood alcohol reading administered at police stations shows an excess of the .08 legal limit that a person is charged with DUI. Anyone with a reading under that can still be charged as an impaired driver.
Tom Jensen of the Scottsdale Police advises people to refrain from driving even if they're just "buzzed." That's enough to get pulled over and risk an impairment charge. "Driving impaired is what the law is [prohibiting].. and that's what we want to do is prevent people from making those fine motor skill mistakes while they're driving a motor vehicle," he told Fox News.