Labor Day weekend might be weeks off, but Pennsylvania state and local police have already begun checkpoints and patrols to catch holiday drivers impaired by drugs and alcohol.
The effort, part of the National Labor Day DUI Crackdown, began on Friday and will last through Sept. 2. Officers will be on the lookout not only for drunk drivers, but also individuals who may be under the influence of drugs — which can include some prescription medications.
The increased patrols are added in mid-August because this marks the last weekend for family summer vacations, said George Geisler, a director of law enforcement services for the Pennsylvania DUI association.
"It's a very dangerous time; more people are on the roadway than usual," Geisler said.
Geisler said local and state police will be setting up checkpoints at locations prone to DUI arrests or accidents. He said there will be a heavy officer presence late at night, when bars close, but said they will patrol at other times as well.
York has the highest DUI and DUI-drug arrest rates per capita in the commonwealth, Geisler said. Statewide, PennDOT data shows DUI-drug arrests are on the rise, even as the overall number of DUI crashes has declined.
The change is because officers are receiving special training, through both the Drug Recognition Expert program and the more-condensed Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement program, said Adam Reed, public information officer with the Pennsylvania State Police.
"Traditionally you think of holiday weekends as big weekends for drunk drivers, but police officers have become much better at detecting drivers impaired by drugs — there are certainly a lot of them," Reed said. "Getting these drivers off the road ... has probably saved lives."
— Reach Michael Tabb at firstname.lastname@example.org.