DUI enforcement shifting into high gear for Labor Day
From Aug. 15, through Labor Day, law enforcement agencies across North Dakota will be adding shifts and saturation patrols to catch impaired drivers. Participating agencies include the North Dakota Highway Patrol, sheriff’s departments and police.
Enforcement is a key factor in preventing impaired driving. In 2012, one alcohol-related crash occurred on North Dakota roads every 7.8 hours.
“An impaired driver lacks judgment, which leads to a greater likelihood of a crash. Crashes with alcohol involved are more likely to involve speed, lack of seat belts or big errors like leaving the lane of travel or missing a traffic control, so injuries in these crashes tend to be more severe,” Tom Nehring, Director of Emergency Medical Services for the North Dakota Department of Health, said.
The largest percentage of alcohol-related crashes tend to take place between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., which adds to response times and the time of treatment, especially in rural areas.
“When you take into account that most of the state’s vehicle fatalities are in rural areas, alcohol-related crashes are a real burden for local emergency services and the entire healthcare delivery system,” Nehring said.
Paul Schauer has been an ambulance driver for the town of Wilton since 1997. He volunteers 250 hours a month, which he is able to balance with his job as pastor of the Sunne Lutheran Church.
“Most of the time, we know these people,” Schauer said. “We know their family; our children went to school with them. It’s very hard on us.”
As a part of the volunteer response team, Schauer is very aware of the limits in what they can provide for a crash victim.
“When there’s a crash in the middle of the night, we’ve got to get out of bed, get our equipment, then locate the victims and transport them to a medical facility,” Schauer said. “It will take time, and nothing we can do is going to make it faster.”
In Schauer’s opinion, people know they shouldn’t drink and drive, but their fatal mistake is not understanding the risks or finding a smarter alternative.
“I’ve been involved in burying some of these folks and helped with the grief afterwards. Each loss has an impact on the community,” Schauer said.
Impaired driving enforcement leading up to Labor Day is part of an annual national crackdown during one of the year’s high risk periods for drinking and driving. Extra enforcement is funded by the North Dakota Department of Transportation.