Citizens are warned that during the period, Aug. 15 through Labor Day, Sept. 2, the Hiawatha Police Department will join almost 190 other local and state police agencies across Kansas in a crackdown aimed at removing drunk and other drugged drivers from the roadways. You Drink. You Drive. You Lose., is underwritten by the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT).

According to KDOT, alcohol and other drugs are implicated in 40 percent of the crash deaths on Kansas roads. Every two days someone suffers death followed by a death notification visit to loved ones, all because a decision was made to drive while impaired. Over the past five years the average proportion of fatality crashes attributable to such chemical impairment was 23 percent, or almost one-fourth of all fatality crashes. The agency also reports that crashes involving at least one impaired driver are likely to be more severe than are other crashes. For example, the risk of serious injury in an impairment crash is almost five times that of the crash where such impairment is determined to have not been a factor. More striking is the fact that the risk of death is over fifteen times higher in the case of an impairment crash. Clearly, impaired drivers need to be taken off the road, for their good and for the good of others sharing the road with them.

This enforcement campaign is intended to remind drivers of several things:

1. If you’re going to drink alcohol away from home, do it responsibly by lining up a designated driver before you leave. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until it’s time to return home to start asking around. Chances are, if you do that, you’ll wind up with someone who might be more sober than you are but not sober enough.

2. Check your medications for driving warnings. More and more in Kansas, DUI arrests are occurring during daytime hours, largely due to the side effects of prescription drugs. And it’s not uncommon to find alcohol or illicit drugs also present at the same time.

3. Think of a family you know – maybe your own – and consider how it would be to wake up every day to the memory of your decision to drive after ingesting something which unintentionally brought injury or death to one of them. If you’re driving impaired, you are not only more likely to crash, but you are much more likely to cause serious injury or death to yourself and others when you do crash.

4. A DUI arrest can cost you thousands and, in the case of alcohol, will result in the installation of an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. Imagine not being able to start your car without blowing into the interlock’s alcohol sensor several times during an afternoon’s errands. Not to mention explaining it all to your children and friends.

5. We are asking all citizens on the roadways – drivers and passengers, alike – to watch for suspicious driving behaviors. Note location, a description of the suspect vehicle, and its direction of travel and call 911 as soon as it’s safe to do so. You may save a life.

6. You can count on this department to vigorously enforce impaired driving and other traffic laws, not just during this enforcement campaign but all through the year.

7. Always remember that your best protection against an impaired driver (even when it’s you) is the use of seat belts and appropriate child restraints – every trip, every time. Restraints save lives and reduce injury severity across a wide range of driving mistakes and mishaps.

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