Sobering reminder for all drivers

Police departments in four Observer communities are among 195 New Jersey law enforcement agencies that have been awarded grants to fund their participation in the state’s “Drive Sober, or Get Pulled Over” end-of-summer crackdown on drunk and impaired drivers.

Each of the agencies — including the Kearny, Lyndhurst, Belleville and Bloomfield police — is receiving $5,000, to be earmarked for checkpoints and saturation patrols, the Division of Highway Traffic Safety announced last week.

The total awarded throughout the state was $975,000.

This year’s crackdown began Friday and will run to Sept. 1. More than 300 additional police departments are expected to participate in the initiative unfunded.

According to highway authorities, nationwide a fatal alcohol-impaired-driving crash occurs every 51 minutes on average throughout the year. Over the Labor Day weekend, that statistic reportedly jumps to one fatality every 34 minutes, with 46% occurring between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

During last year’s crackdown, law enforcement made 1,365 DWI arrests statewide. They also issued citations for speeding (5,710), seatbelt violations (4,153), driving with a suspended license (3,563) and reckless driving (936).

Nearly 1,800 fugitives also were apprehended during the campaign, authorities reported.

The Division of Highway Traffic Safety offers the following advice for those who choose to drink:

* Take mass transit, a taxi or ask a sober friend to drive you home.

* Spend the night rather than get behind the wheel.

* Report impaired drivers to law enforcement. In New Jersey, drivers may dial #77 to report a drunk or aggressive driver.

* Always buckle up, every ride, regardless of your seating position in the vehicle. It’s your best defense against an impaired driver.

* If you’re intoxicated, do not travel on foot. Take a cab or have a sober friend or family member drive or escort you to your doorstep.

Gary Poedubicky, acting director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety,: “Many people believe that even after having a few drinks, they can still drive. One’s judgment is among the first things to be affected after consuming alcohol . . . even one drink can impair judgment and reaction time, creating a potentially dangerous situation for everyone on the road.”

The Observer Staff