Highway patrol officers step up enforcement for holidays

Arizona Department of Public Safety officers will be patrolling the county's highways during the Thanksgiving holidays in a stepped up effort to crack down on drunk drivers and enforcing seat belt laws.

Highway patrol officers in Mohave County will be focusing on Interstate 40, east and west of Kingman, U.S.

Highway 93, north to Hoover Dam and south toward Wikieup and Highway 95, with extra patrols during the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, DPS Lt.

Ron DeLong said.

"We want to remind people to buckle seats because there will a lot of traffic," DeLong said.

Saturation patrols will begin Wednesday and go through the holiday weekend.

On Saturday and Sunday, extra DPS officers in conjunction with Kingman Police Department and the Mohave County Sheriff's Office will work DUI details throughout the county.

"Thanksgiving is always one of the busiest travel days," DeLong said.

"Historically there is a high volume of traffic over the long weekend."

For more than a year the state's new driving under the influence laws have been into effect.

The new restrictions are for a blood alcohol level of 0.08 for DUI, and a blood alcohol level of 0.15 for extreme DUI.

Anyone driving above the legal blood limit will be arrested.

That can mean heavy fines, losing ones driver's license or jail time.

The penalty for an extreme DUI is a mandatory 10 days in jail.

The penalty for a DUI is one day in jail.

Those charges are misdemeanors.

However, a DUI becomes a felony if the drunk driver has had more than three felony DUIs in the last five years, had their license suspended for a previous felony DUI, or they have been stopped for DUI with a child under 15 years old in the car.

During the Thanksgiving holidays in 2001, 14 people were killed in traffic accidents in the state.

Two of those deaths were alcohol related.

The year before, 24 people were killed during the holidays, according to data provided by the Arizona Department of Transportation.

Almost 20 percent of traffic accidents, in which children are killed or injured, are alcohol related, ADOT said.

DPS will also be on the look out for motorists who are not seat belted.

DPS officers can ticket a driver if a child passenger is unrestrained, DeLong said.

According to ADOT statistics, safety belts can reduce the risk of a fatal injury for front seat occupants by 45 percent and reduce the risk of moderate to critical injury by 50 percent.