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Drunk drivers targeted

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

As the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to battle for supremacy on the football field in Super Bowl XLIII, they are not the only ones gearing up for a busy Sunday.

Law enforcement agencies in Henry and Clayton counties are increasing patrols this weekend to apprehend drivers impaired by alcohol.

Roadblocks are planned in both Clayton and Henry counties all weekend, and police say those caught will be jailed.

"We're encouraging people to be responsible. If you see someone who looks like they've had too much to drink, offer them a ride home," said Sgt. Jeff Owen, who oversees the Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic (HEAT) program for the Henry County Police Department. HEAT officers, with assistance from other divisions in the department, will beef up their road checkpoints on the day of the game.

"We're not telling people not to drink," said Lt. Brian Danekes, who is in charge of the Clayton Police Department's HEAT and traffic units. "We're telling them if they do drink, they should stay put or get a designated driver."

Danekes expects some Super Bowl drinking will start several hours before game time.

Owen urges Super Bowl party hosts to stop serving alcoholic beverages after the third quarter of the game. He also noted, "Henry's taxi services go all over the county, so that's an option as well."

Police in Henry, and other agencies, are partnering with the National Football League and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to remind the public of the link between Super Bowl drinking and accidents.

"In 2007, fatalities in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes accounted for 32 percent of the total motor vehicle fatalities," Henry Police said in a prepared statement. "On Super Bowl Sunday, 48 percent of the fatalities occurred in crashes where a driver or motorcycle rider had a blood-alcohol concentration level of .08 or higher." The statement also noted party hosts can be prosecuted, if someone to whom they have served alcohol is involved in an impaired-driving crash.

The Governor's Office of Highway Safety says males, between the ages of 21 and 34 - also the core audience for the Super Bowl - are the most likely to be involved in a DUI crash.

Danekes said impaired drivers are not always caught.

"There are a lot of DUI drivers we don't catch, who get away with it," he said. "On Super Bowl Sunday, there is more likelihood impaired drivers will get caught, because there will be more of us out there. If they do get caught, they will have no excuses whatsoever."