NJ Cracks Down on Drunk Drivers During the Holidays [AUDIO]
If you plan on getting a little too merry this month and decide to hit the road while impaired, be warned: police across the state will be out in force as part of the "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" initiative.
The national program runs until Jan. 2, 2014, and police in every New Jersey county will be setting up more checkpoints and officer presence to dissuade potential offenders and arrest impaired drivers.
This year, the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety awarded 166 police departments across the state with $4,400 worth of grants to offset the cost of enforcement.
Almost two dozen police departments in Monmouth County received the grant, largely because of county officials' history of running the program even when they did not receive grant assistance to do so.
"They're kind of being rewarded for non-funded participation in years past, but there are other counties that have very close participation," said Ed O'Connor, central regional supervisor at the Division of Highway Traffic Safety. "Every county in the state has some towns that are funded for this."
Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden said the holiday season is a dangerous time on the roads.
"Everyone has parties, it's reunion time, people come home for the holidays, and all our students come home from college," Golden said.
Last year, the program resulted in the arrest of 1,555 individuals for driving while intoxicated in New Jersey, with 42 of those arrests in Monmouth County.
This year, in addition to canvassing for drunk drivers, O'Connor said police will be on the lookout for anyone under the influence of drugs as well.
"Anecdotally, we're getting word from the departments that are involved in sobriety checkpoints that more and more drivers are coming through impaired on more substances than alcohol," O'Connor said.
Since 2007, 266 people have died on Monmouth County roads, and 113 of those deaths were tied to alcohol or drug intoxication or impairment, according to acting Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni.
Gramiccioni said the checkpoints and police presence are meant to not only catch offenders, but condition drivers into making smarter choices.
"Try to force them to make the right decisions before they get behind the wheel intoxicated or high or otherwise, and run the risk of hurting themselves, others, or damaging any property," Gramiccioni said.