SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico motorists can expect a law enforcement blitz against drunken driving during the July Fourth holiday.
State Police officials and law enforcement in the Santa Fe and Albuquerque areas said Tuesday they will operate checkpoints to catch drunken drivers and will have more officers on patrol.
Santa Fe County also is airing radio advertisements against drunken driving and to promote a program that offers cab rides home for people who have been drinking. The cabs usually cost a $1 although it's higher for a long distance trip. Usually the program operates on Friday and Saturday but the cab ride service will be expanded to Thursday for the July Fourth holiday.
"The Fourth of July is usually one of the most dangerous times to be on the highways because of DWI," Santa Fe County Sheriff Robert Garcia said at a news conference.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 251 people died in traffic crashes nationwide during the Fourth of July holiday in 2011 and 38 percent of those deaths were in crashes involving a drunken driver.
Santa Fe Police Capt. Aric Wheeler said nearly 400 people were arrested for drunken driving last year in the city and 175 vehicles of repeat offenders were seized by authorities. Through the end of May this year, more than 231 vehicles have been seized from drunken drivers and there have been 188 arrests for driving while intoxicated in Santa Fe.
"It's a problem that we continue to try to solve on a daily basis," said Wheeler.
Albuquerque Police Department spokeswoman Tasia Martinez said a dozen extra officers will be patrolling for drunken drivers during the holiday and there would be a sobriety checkpoint. A police helicopter and airplane also will be flying to look for fireworks violations in the state's largest city.
State Police Chief Robert Shilling said officers will conduct checkpoints and "saturation patrols" for drunken drivers but also will target other traffic violations.
"The vast New Mexico interstates will also be replete with State Police 'black and whites.' Officers will be out patrolling for aggressive drivers, speeding and drivers with no seat belts," Shilling said in a statement.
According to the state Department of Transportation, 119 people have died in highway accidents in New Mexico from January through May and 58 of those deaths involved alcohol.
There were 78 deaths in alcohol-involved highway crashes statewide during the first five months of 2012, and 52 during the same period in 2011
Follow Barry Massey on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bmasseyAP
The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find more news and analysis from The Trucker, and share your thoughts, on Facebook.