Local law officials gathered Thursday at Beltzville State Park to remind area residents of increased police presence on area roads and waterways during the Fourth of July holiday.
This year's "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" DUI enforcement program will take place from June 29-July 7. The program will target both those driving under the influence (DUI) and boating under the influence (BUI) of alcohol or drugs.
"We encourage people to think twice about drinking and driving, or drinking and boating," said David Everly, the regional coordinator for the North Central Regional DUI Enforcement Program.
"Although the Fourth is a beloved time to celebrate our nation's birthday, it is also a deadly time of year," said Jean Engler, assistant district attorney for Carbon County. "The national, state and local statistics bear out the need for increased surveillance."
Engler noted that during the same time period last year, there were approximately 355 crashes attributed to driving under the influence, and 20 deaths. Approximately 60 boat operators were charged with boating under the influence.
Now that the national level of blood alcohol level (BAL) considered intoxicated has been reduced from .1 to .08, it can take only a small amount of alcohol to render a driver or boater legally impaired.
"Boating under the influence is also a federal offense," she said, noting that being caught drinking and operating a watercraft can lead to jail time. "The effects of the water and the waves are compounded by the effects of alcohol."
Perhaps more important, boaters who choose to drink while out on the water will likely trailer their vessels and drive them home possibly while still intoxicated.
Engler added that even if an impaired driver doesn't cause an accident, there can be severe ramifications for being caught drinking and driving or boating. Offenders can face jail time, steep fines, probation, and a loss of license.
"People don't realize the full consequences, how expensive a DUI charge can be," she said, noting that penalties and fees can easily be over $1,000 and a license suspension can make it hard for adults to get to work.
"That can impact their ability to earn a living," she added.
Engler noted that refraining from drinking is an option, as is appointing a designated driver.
"If you do drink, call a taxi," she said. "Do not get into a vehicle or watercraft if you suspect the driver is impaired."