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Authorities to crack down on Labor Day weekend

One of the deadliest weekends on Alabama's roadways is drawing near.

The Labor Day weekend, which will run from Sept. 3-6, will see a great increase in travel. Unfortunately, there will also be an increase in the number of impaired drivers.

However, steps are being taken to get those drivers off the road. More than 9,000 law enforcement officers will be out in full force cracking down on drunk drivers.

&uot;You Drink & Drive. You Lose,&uot; involves high-visibility enforcement like sobriety checkpoints that take just a moment for citizens and are proven to reduce alcohol-related traffic fatalities and injuries by 18 to 24 percent.

MADD affiliates around the country are supporting law enforcement efforts by providing drunk driving awareness literature to motorists, making sure officers are recognized for their hard work and helping community leaders understand that by stopping drunk driving gains long-term benefits like lives saved and economic savings.

Nearly 56 percent of Labor Day weekend traffic fatalities in last year involved alcohol--300 people were killed.

Butler County Sheriff Diane Harris said her department would be working hard to help prevent these accidents.

"We will be out in full force," said Harris. "We're going to be watching for underage drinking and drinking and driving."

Harris said during the long weekend many people chose to supplement their fun with alcohol. She had simple advice for those who chose to drink over the weekend.

"If they are going to drink they need to stay at home," said Harris. "That way they won't wind up a casualty and cause either their death or someone else's."

This is the first national law enforcement mobilization since all 50 states and the District of Columbia enacted .08 blood alcohol content (BAC) laws for impaired driving and since the Department of Transportation announced a 3 percent decrease in alcohol-related traffic fatalities from 2002 to 2003.

If police suspect drunk driving, they must conduct a field sobriety test and depending on those results, the officer then determines based on law if a blood or breath test must be taken to determine a blood alcohol level.

If someone tests above the illegal blood alcohol level, they are then arrested.

There are still more than 17,000 alcohol-related traffic fatalities and half a million injuries each year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) studies show that nearly 97 percent of Americans view drinking and driving by others as a threat to their families and themselves.

You Drink & Drive. You Lose began in 1999 and combines highly visible law enforcement with a

$14 million national advertising campaign - the largest paid media buy in the crackdown’s history. Advertising during the crackdown highlights that law enforcement will be strictly enforcing drunken driving laws during the three-week crackdown period (Aug.27-Sept. 12). Additionally, for the first time, the crackdown will take place during the Labor Day period to target the end-of-summer impaired driving problem.

Harris said there tends to be more drinking involved on Labor Day weekend making such steps necessary.

"There tends to be a little bit more drinking because so many people are off work," said Harris. "There is a lot of barbecuing going on. Usually when you get a big crowd together there is going to be some drinking and things like that."

For more information on how to ensure sobriety checkpoints take place in your town or for safe party tips, please visit www.madd.org.