HARRISBURG – As part of its efforts to keep Pennsylvania’s highways safe for all travelers, State Police last year arrested 15,583 people for driving under the influence, a 3 percent increase over the number arrested for DUI in 2007, and the highest total for a single year in the department’s history, announced State Police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller.
“Our troopers are committed to highway safety and removing irresponsible drivers who pose a threat to themselves and other motorists,” said Miller. “We are using education, training and continued high levels of enforcement to get the job done.”
PennDOT reported in April that the number of alcohol-related crash deaths in the state dropped from 544 in 2006 to 525 last year. “That’s a move in the right direction,” Miller said. “I promise you that every trooper on the road is working hard this year to reduce that number even further.”
Miller said continued expansion of the department’s drug recognition expert program has played a key role in the department’s DUI-enforcement effort. The drug recognition expert program trains troopers and municipal police officers to identify drivers operating under the influence of illegal or pre scri ption drugs and other substances.
“Alcohol is the intoxicant most often responsible for impaired driving, but it’s not the only one that renders individuals incapable of safe driving,” Miller said
He said the 36 troopers and municipal police officers in Pennsylvania who have been certified as DREs since 2004 conducted 440 drug influence evaluations in 2007.
Miller said the department’s Operation Nighthawk, which is aimed at reducing drinking and driving, also continued last year. As part of this program, troopers and municipal police officers get classroom training on two consecutive evenings and then immediately take part in roving patrols to identify and arrest operators who are driving under the influence.
He said the department conducted three Operation Nighthawk sessions in 2007 and will do three more this year.
Miller said State Police made 15,067 DUI arrests in 2006, which was a record number at the time. He noted that troopers investigated 4,775 alcohol-related crashes in 2007, a 1 percent increase over the 4,736 alcohol-related crashes investigated by State Police in 2006.
Miller said that although State Police has stepped up its anti-DUI efforts, law-enforcement response is not the ultimate answer to reducing the number of DUI crashes.
“It is the responsibility of each and every driver in Pennsylvania to stay out of the driver’s seat when he or she is impaired by alcohol or other drugs,” he said. “When in doubt, don’t make a foolish, dangerous decision. Give the keys to someone else, phone for a taxi, or call a friend or family member for a ride.”