Rogue Valley police beef up DUII patrols

Police agencies in the Rogue Valley will be rigorously looking for impaired drivers on New Year's Eve and for the first few hours of 2014.

"People don't realize that it only takes a little bit of alcohol to become impaired, and the way the law is it's not about being drunk, it's about being impaired," said Sgt. Don Lane of the Medford Police Department.

"And a lot of people also don't realize that medications even recreational drug use of say marijuana, for instance, impairs their ability to drive ... to get a DUII you just have to be impaired, you don't have to be intoxicated or drunk," Lane said.

The Medford Police Department and Jackson County Sheriff's Office receive federal grant funds from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to crack down on impaired drivers during the latter half of December, and during other holidays and weekends throughout the year when the likelihood of the number of impaired drivers on roadways increases.

"We are on an enhanced period looking for drunk driver, but that started Monday the 16th and runs through the 2nd," said Sgt. Dace Cochran of the Jackson County Sheriff's Department Traffic Team.

"This whole second half of December is a national DUII crackdown period, and there are increased patrols nation wide," said Lane, who oversees DUII saturation patrols for MPD.

The "crackdown," period the sergeants are referring to is the annual "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" winter holiday crackdown on drunk and drugged driving, which is kicked off by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The NHTSA makes available grant funding to police agencies across the nation to pay officers extra overtime hours dedicated solely to nabbing impaired drivers, Lane said.

Lane hopes to have six officers dedicated to identifying and arresting impaired drivers on New Year's Eve, he said.

"If you have two drinks or more, there is a good chance if we stop you we are going to ask you to do some tests, and you'll likely end up getting arrested," he said. "One night out could end up costing you a lot of money and a lot of embarrassment."

Both Lane and Cochran urge revelers who plan to ingest mind-altering substances on New Year's Eve to make arrangements ahead of time for a safe mode of transportation.

"If you know you're going to drink don't put yourself in a position to drive, make arrangements ahead of time when you're operating with a clear head," Cochran said. "Have a designated driver, and that doesn't mean the least drunk person in the group. Have someone lined up who isn't drinking."

According to the NHSTA, last year 10,322 people died in the vehicle crashes involving drunk drivers compared to 9,865 in 2011 — during the 2012 "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" winter holiday crackdown 830 people died in impaired driving crashes.

"A cab ride just about anywhere in the Rogue Valley, for the most part, is about 20 bucks, $25 maybe, and a DUII ticket is going to run you $1,000 dollars at least," Cochran said.

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-776-4471 or Follow him on Twitter at MTwriter_swhlr

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