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State police stepping up DUI enforcement, urging safety as July 4 weekend approaches

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Connecticut State Police announced they will be stepping up DUI enforcement with roving patrols from Wednesday evening through Sunday evening.

More cars are expected to be on the road as people travel to see family and friends they have not seen due to the COVID-19 pandemic, state police said in a news release. Highway traffic is already picking up, a trend expected to continue as many people have July 3 off for the Fourth of July holiday.

State police ask people to make safety their top priority when they get behind the wheel and plan for delays due to possible traffic and road construction.

They ask people to buckle up, obey speed limits, don’t follow other vehicles too closely, remove distractions while driving, stay off the cellphone and never drink and drive, the release states. If people plan to drink, they should designate a driver. If people see a suspected drunken driver, they should call 911.

Police issued a reminder that “Connecticut’s 'Move Over' law requires motorists approaching stationary emergency vehicles to immediately slow to a speed below the posted speed limit and, if traveling in the lane adjacent to an emergency vehicle, to move over one lane, unless it is unreasonable or unsafe to do so.”

“On behalf of the Connecticut State Police, I ask you to be our partners in keeping roadways safe this weekend and throughout the summer,” state police Col. Stavros Mellekas said in a statement. “Everyone — including Troopers — wants to make it safely to their destinations. So we ask all motor vehicle operators to follow state law to keep yourselves, your passengers and all first responders safe while on the roads.”

Troopers "will employ all methods of enforcement to increase highway safety, including laser units for speed enforcement, as well as marked & unmarked, non-traditional police vehicles to patrol roadways," the release states.

Over the 2019 holiday weekend, police reported receiving 7,184 calls for service and issued 1,859 violations, including for unsafe lane change, following too closely, cellphone use, texting, speeding and seat belt violations. There were 50 arrests for driving under the influence. Police investigated 248 accidents, including 51 involving injuries.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving also issued a news release that “July 4th and the days surrounding the national holiday are among the deadliest for drunk driving.”

MADD urged people to use taxis, public transportation, rideshare services or designate a nondrinking driver if their plans include alcohol. 

“More people die in drunk driving crashes in July than any other month, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,” the news release states.

From 2014 to 2018, drunken-driving crashes killed 812 people over the period from 6 p.m. July 3 to 5:59 a.m. July 5, the release states.

Over the July 4 period in 2018, motor vehicle crashes killed 193 people, with 40% of those fatalities occurring in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes, according to the release. In 2017, 38% of the July 4 period fatalities occurred in alcohol-impaired crashes.

NHTSA has found "nighttime hours are especially dangerous," according to the release.

Drunken driving accounts for one-third of all traffic deaths and causes the deaths of more than 10,000 people every year, the release states.

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